{Tyke Bites} Banana Bread, Go Bars & Italian Chicken!

Hello my foodie friends! I'm back with another installment of Tyke Bites, which features a random day of meals for my quad squad....

Breakfast was a yummy serving of homemade banana bread (I've been using this recipe lately and the whole fam loves it!) with full-fat Greek vanilla honey yogurt and fresh strawberries. The kiddos enjoy eating their yogurt with spoons and are definitely becoming more adept with cutlery. But not at making less mess. That's what momma is for right? Clean up, aisle 4.


Lunch was a hodge podge mix of leftovers, since that's how we roll some days! We had leftover chicken nuggets, veggie chips, a couple whole grain goldfish, cheese, blueberries and cantaloupe. They ate every bite! I have to remember sometimes that kids don't find random food pairings odd at all, unlike we adults. ;)


I always struggle a little with snack time. Some days we do applesauce out of a community bowl, some days grandma is over and does a tea party with tea biscuits and other days I resort to my trusty goldfish. The quads love them, I just wish I could cut down on the carb-based foods I give them! But I've tried various things to no avail, so I have to feed them something they'll actually eat. I was very happy to find Plum Organic Go Bar's that have oats, chocolate chips and veggies at Target. The kids gobbled them up and they're easy to eat with minimal mess. 
Dinner, however, was a freshly baked home run that I'll certainly be repeating. I made this delicious Italian chicken bake, paired with mini penna pasta tossed with a little melted butter, garlic salt and fresh ground pepper, a couple of the baked tomatoes and sweet blueberries. Yum!



Got a recipe or snack idea you love? Leave me the dish in the comments section puh-lease!
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{Quad Squad} Simple Book & Craft Combos for Toddlers

Today we tackled our very first book and craft combo, and....it went well! I had a few somewhat cranky babies this morning and Harrison might have cried and yelled through half of our beautiful and peaceful learning experience. Kidding. But we did get the craft completed and no two-year-olds were harmed in the process. I call that success, people!


My good friend, Jo Ann, was on hand this morning to help, which was a benefit since I hadn't prepped anything yet for this craft. And there was impending mutiny on deck in the play room. So she hurriedly put them all in the quad table while I gathered up all the supplies as fast as I could. We're doing a craft, damn it!!

The inspiration came from Pinterest, naturally, which I now have saved to my new Quad Crafts & Learning board. But the original instructions called for black paint to paint the head and the ladybug's dots—and I had absolutely no black paint. Plus, I figured sticking to one paint color would keep things simpler for the eight busy little hands I needed to entertain. So I ad-libbed and cut out circles from black construction paper.


First, Jo Ann read our book, The Peek-A-Boo Ladybug and Harrison cried through every other word. Then we put art smocks from Ikea on everyone, partially covered the table in wax paper and gave them all a paper plate half, a brush (I love ours by Melissa & Doug) and some red washable paint. Then they went to work!


As soon as they had covered the plates with enough paint—all minimally assisted by the grown-ups—I gave them the dots for the ladybug to stick on while the paint was still wet, thus omitting the need for glue. Less material, better for everyone! Then they stuck on the larger black circles for the ladybug's head, to which I'd already glued a set of googly eyes. I also gave them two black strips of paper each for antenna, but I don't think those made it onto everyone's bug.





After that, everyone got four pieces of yarn, cut at random lengths, and we taped them to the backside of the plate for legs. Ta-dah! A ladybug, folks, in all it's charming toddler-esque glory.



I truly love this idea and am incorporating a literacy-based craft once a week into my new plan to create slightly more structured mornings for my crew. And my sweet quad momma friend—who also shares my same first name and is a wonderfully talented school psychologist—was the one to instigate the idea and encourage me to do literacy-based crafts as they help toddlers better learn and recall new concepts. We regularly display new artwork so we'll revisit the ladybugs and the book often. She does the same and explains details and shares other ideas in her literacy-based crafts blog post, as well.

Now to decide on next week's book and craft combo! (Look for future posts under my new category label, Toddler Crafts & Learning.) I'm thinking something like this caterpillar craft and a couple reads on caterpillars and butterflies...

Ah, the ever-thrilling life of a momma. ;)
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{Quad Squad} How I Plan Our Meals & Mornings

Earlier this year, I decided to start meal planning. I'd put it off for awhile because the thought of coming up with every single meal for every day of an entire week sounded completely daunting. Which is a little weird, since I cook frequently and enjoy grocery shopping and love food.


But when I finally got things underway, it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought. I worked in a few of our staple meals that I knew would be easy enough for me to prepare without stressing myself out in the process, then I would prepare a grocery list so I'd be sure to have everything I needed to survive the week without fail. And I found the perfect meal planner here and a plain and simple grocery list here.


Now I've been doing it ever since and I love it. In fact, everyone in our house is so used to it that the husband will often wake up before me on Saturdays, get the babies up and consult the meal plan to see what he needs to make for breakfast! Or my nanny will check to see what she needs to prep for lunch. Or my mom will give me the evening off when she's over on Wednesdays and either make what's on the menu or bring the entire meal so I don't have to cook at all. It's genius! And it's a wonderful solution for our family.



Sometimes we still get bored of eating the same things on a frequent basis, so I've been pinning tons of recipes to my Food board on Pinterest, or my Healthy Eating board as well. And I often pull recipes from the latest issue of Rachael Ray Magazine once I've had a chance to read it. (You can check out all the recipes I share on my blog here.) I limit myself to no more than two new recipes in a week so that I'm not adding stress to myself during meal times and don't have to think very hard about dinner too often! Dinner time is easily the more strenuous meal time in our house since the quads are getting anxious, I'm getting really tired and the husband usually isn't quite home yet.


I have to enter a couple disclaimers real quick though! I normally grocery shop alone because I enjoy it and count it as "me time." I prefer to shop at Tom Thumb so I can my Starbucks tea, fresh flowers and avoid crazy crowds, but now and then I'll do some bulk buying at Costco—I've taken the kids there by myself once so far! And my fridge and pantry aren't really organized, they're simply crammed full of everything I need. So lest you think I'm far too prepared with my list and meal plans.... ;)



Next, I discovered a system that worked well for me as far as dividing up the meal plan and grocery shopping ritual. I create the meal plan on Saturday afternoon or evening and then have my grocery list ready to hit the store Sunday morning or afternoon. Granted, this doesn't always work out and this week, for example, I hurriedly meal planned this morning and went to the grocery store in a big rush while my nanny was at the house with the kids. (Thankfully the recipe pins I'd saved last night came in handy for meal ideas!)

When things don't go according to the original plan, I just resort to Plan B. With quadruplets, or kids in general, you always have to have a Plan B! If meal planning doesn't get done until Monday, fine. If I get too worn out and need the husband to pick up fried chicken one night because I don't have the energy to cook, fine. If I need to switch around a dinner or two on my meal plan because it ends up working out better, fine. I try to plan meals that are healthy and incorporate lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and some weeks are certainly better than others. Our goal is always to be health-conscious, but my kids still need some fatty calories to keep them climbing the growth charts and sometimes I get tired of trying so hard in so many areas and go with an easy meal option on occasion instead. Everything is flexible!

After months of successful meal planning, I launched my new Tyke Bites series on the blog and began sharing what a random day of meals looks like for the quads. Some are more creative then others, all meant to just put some meal thoughts out there and give new material to other moms while getting advice on more meal ideas for myself in return! I've really enjoyed it and I kid you not that after I've given the kiddos their plates of food then walk up to the quad table with my camera in hand, Harrison smiles and pushes his plate out in front of him and waits for me to take a picture. He has caught on, haha!

The brand spankin' newest thing I've added to our schedule is a morning craft or learning time. I have been mulling over our daily schedule and how we do things for the past few weeks, as the quads really do require more interaction, more supervision and more activities to keep them occupied. (Or to keep them from pulling each other's hair or pushing each other off the slide.) I typically feed them breakfast then clean them up and usher them into their play room for play time, while quickly moving on to cleaning and laundry and other things I frantically feel need to be done. But all the while, I have to dart back and forth between my task at hand and the play room, refereeing bicker-fests or relocating toys or offering a drink or changing a dirty diaper. It has become totally exhausting and I truly feel that I'm not accomplishing much at this rate.


For the meantime, I've decided to try adding a little more structure into our mornings—and try to worry less about the undone laundry, dishes, etc.—and just focus on the kids and promote crafts or learning activities that will keep them more engaged. Then we'll do lunch and naps, which is when I can catch a small break, and the afternoon can be devoted to free play time in the play room along with a few episodes of their favorite TV shows (currently these include Bubble Guppies, Team Umizoomi, Paw Patrol and Dinosaur Train). I always want to read more with them in the afternoons and continue to review flash cards after dinner, but I'll take things one step at a time. We just started this new approach today so I'll have to report back on how it's going and what I learn!

I wanted to create an easy planner to write down what craft or activity we'd do each morning so I didn't have to stress to come up with something and could just consult the schedule, exactly like I do with my meal plan. I found a nice pre-made pdf and printed out a couple copies then went to work. I've kept things pretty simple: we're doing one literacy-based craft a week on a morning that we're home and I don't have physical therapy or anything else going on (for instance, this week we're making paper plate lady bugs and reading a book about a lady bug to coincide); coloring counts as an activity and is one we can easily do on their play table in the play room; play-doh at the quad table, chalk on the front walkway or playing on the play ground in the backyard all also count as activities, as they are easy and quick to assemble! This way I will be more focused on the kids, what they're doing, what they're learning and hopefully feel less distracted and scrambled and more streamlined and prepared.

Got a great activity for us to try or a tyke-friendly recipe you love? Please leave your feedback in the comments section, I love hearing from y'all!
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{Quad Squad} The Toddler Bed Transition!

So half of our crew has made the big switch to toddler beds! It happened more out of necessity than desire, since I did not desire to give my kiddos freedom to run around their room instead of napping or going to sleep at night. Like, there was no small part of me that was like, "Awww, my kids are big kids now and need toddler beds!" None whatsoever.


But Kailey and Harrison, who are both tall and skinny, eventually learned how to stuff a book or a puzzle in between the front of their mattress and the crib, forming a makeshift step stool to help themselves climb right out. I caught on and gave them only small books and puzzles after that, which bought me about five days. Then they grew and began to just hike their long ol' legs over the top of the crib rail and hoist it on over in seconds. Right after I would shut the door. Every time. Occasionally it was followed with a "thump" on the floor and we would pause to see if anyone cried or screamed afterward. If it didn't (you know, live and learn!), then we'd give them a few minutes to exercise their newfound freedom before putting the offender back in their crib to the sound of very loud, insistent protest.


Then we just bit the bullet and the husband converted Kailey and Harrison's cribs to toddler beds. (We have the Stork Craft Tuscany 4-in-1 stages cribs in white and in cherry.) I put on fun sheets, quilts and their beloved pillows that my mom made and we hoped for the best! I really didn't have a concrete plan in mind for the transition and I struggled with knowing exactly how to reinforce this new sleeping arrangement. We figured we'd just tackle the challenges as we went, which resulted in a lack of consistency in the beginning—but you live and learn, right?

At first, novelty reigned supreme. They loved their beds and their ability to get in and out of them. We let all the quads go in and check them out and climb all over them for a little while before officially putting everyone to bed that first night. They climbed, flopped, bounced and wriggled all over the beds and loved every second. I even got a photo of Trystan in mid-jump!







Since it was a Wednesday, the day of the week Grandma and Grandad are normally at the house to help me out with the kids, Grandma got to witness the switch and the surprised faces when the kids saw their beds for the first time. :)

We tucked in Kailey and Harrison and explained to them they were in their new big boy or girl bed and had to stay in there to sleep. We turned on their sound machine, switched off the lamp, kissed them goodnight and gently closed the door. Then they jumped out of bed, turned off the sound machine, switched on the lamp and ran around their room talking and yelling.





From our master bedroom, we could observe their nighttime shenanigans on our TV via the video monitors the husband had installed in the ceiling of each kid's room. Pretty handy when you need a broader view of the activity taking place! The first night or two we were pretty lenient since it was so new. After that, we'd give them a minute or two then go in and put them back in bed, turn everything off and gently reprimand them to stay put. I would only do this a few times because, honestly, it got really old and exhausting and I figured eventually they would wear themselves out. Turns out, they did! They ran around for an hour and a half or less after we closed the door every night for that first week before eventually passing out in their beds. I was very happy they climbed back in bed when they were ready to call it a night and they looked so cute and grown up.


I ran some errands last week and found some cute toddler bedding at Buy Buy Baby—one adorned with dinosaurs and perfect for Harrison and the other in shades of pink and on clearance, which made it perfect for Kailey. ;) This seemed to really help cement the transition as we told them it was just like mommy and daddy's bed and they really liked that. Whenever they get in our bed for a brief period of time, whether it's just playing around or laying with us if one is sick or having issues going to sleep, they always quickly get under the sheet then reach forward for the comforter and pull it right up under their chin and snuggle down in the pillows. So I figured having a similar setup in their bed would really help them feel like it was where they were comfortable to sleep, and I really do think it made a difference.



Bedtime quickly improved and now Harrison and Kailey only get up for a few minutes or even not at all once we close the door at night. Nap time was a different story for awhile and there were a couple afternoons that neither of them slept for even a second, or perhaps Harrison slept but Kailey kept getting into everything and wailing periodically before going and poking little man in the face until he woke up to. On two of those days, I ended up in tears from exhaustion and frustration. Nap time is my break for the day and a chance to relax, eat lunch, sleep or watch some TV, catch up on things or whatever it is I need some "me time" to accomplish. When I don't get that break in the day, it makes for a reallllllyyyy long afternoon.

A few days in, I took extra toys and any potential hazards out of Kailey and Harrison's room or moved it into the closet so there was a little less for them to get into and become distracted by. They still occasionally pull the clothes out of the drawers in the dresser, but I haven't sweated that too much since I've got to sort through all the quad's current clothes anyway and purge too-small items and re-organize it all. Once that's done, we'll be adding drawer locks to keep my handiwork in order!

Nap time is now starting to improve and they're either contentedly playing for a few minutes on the floor or in their bed before falling asleep. They're also beginning to last a little longer and we're nearly back to our usual 1-4pm napping-and-quiet-playtime in their rooms ritual.

There have certainly been some comical moments during this new experience! Like one evening when their nightlife went off automatically while Kailey and Harrison were still playing instead of sleeping. It was pitch black so we were laughing hysterically watching them on the TV monitor as they walked around like zombies, arms stretched out in front of them, taking little waddling steps to avoid tripping over something!!



The quads are certainly growing up and it's only becoming more and more apparent. Sometimes I feel like I'm the one groping around in the dark, trying to figure out what the next step needs to be! Aside from the toddler bed transition, we've added a baby gate to the top of our stairs to keep them wondering the house should they manage to open their bedroom doors at night (right now, they are unable to open twist-knob door handles). I've also added a stove top guard, oven door lock, level door handle lock to the wet bar (so they can't open all the lower cabinets that are full of glass vases), locks to a cabinet that contains cleaning supplies as well as the changing table drawer (it has scissors and other objects in it) and soon a lock for the downstairs toilet lid!

For now, Trystan and Logan are still in their regular cribs and haven't tried to climb out at all. But they really do like crawling into Harrison and Kailey's beds anytime they're in their room, and they'll cozy up in the sheets and pretend to go to sleep. It's so cute! We will be converting their beds just as soon as we get the chance to anchor their dresser to the wall and put a lock at the top of the door to the bathroom.


Here's to a new milestone in Quadville!
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{Tyke Bites} Muffins, Meatloaf & "More Pease!"

"Mmmm, mmmm, mmmmmm!"

That's what at least one or two of my tots now say when they're eating something they're happy about it. And on occasion, Trystan will pipe up in her adorable little voice with, "Trystan likes it!" and just about squeak a smile off the end of the last word. It's seriously the cutest.

So here's another Tyke Bites post featuring a random day of meals in Quadville:

Breakfast was one of our staples - blueberry muffins, Greek Goddess yogurt (the strawberry honey flavor is their favorite) and bananas (also called nannas). They've gotten pretty good at self-feeding the yogurt with their spoon. Though I won't say it's all neat and tidy.


For lunch, I served cheese, more nannas (was running low on fruits, I think), pretzel thins, cucumber and carrot salad with a soy sesame ginger vinaigrette dressing from Trader Joe's and rotisserie chicken.


Afternoon snack was a new addiction for us all, white cheddar popcorn! They go crazy over the stuff.


And for dinner, we had grapes, blueberries, Annie's organic mac & cheese and meat loaf with pleeeeenty of ketchup for dipping. The quads have all learned when they get a sauce on their plate—be it barbecue, gravy or ketchup—it's best with another food item they've been served! I've got two that will literally eat ketchup with a spoon or fork and ask for seconds before they've ever even touched another food group, shouting "More, PEASE!"


What toddler-friendly items have hit your table with success lately?
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