My Moments of Redemption

When life gets really, really hard, I often find that a small, teeny tiny moment will appear in the haze and give me just as much encouragement as I needed at that exact time. Enough to help me buck up and keep going. Do you know what I'm talking about? Have you experienced that before?

I've had it happen many times in my young adult life—which I'm by no means saying I'm not a young adult anymore, the 30s haven't hit me quite yet so slow your roll!—whether it was in the midst of a treacherous part of my teenage years, a tumultuous part of my early 20s or simply the challenges of a my post-grad college student days while trying to make my mark on the world. I would feel defeated or lost or inconsolable, and then a moment would happen and it wouldn't fix everything but it would lift my chin just enough so that I could see the goal again.

photo from a 2010 trip to spain
Thank God for these moments, right? I mean, life wasn't meant to be a walk in the park—even when we feel like everyone else's life is a walk in the park, whether that's truth or not—and it's perfectly normal, hell perfectly acceptable, to be down in the dirt once in awhile. Those days happen. They happen to the people who are seemingly a mess all the time and they sure as the dickens happen to those perfect people that seem to have everything tied up in the prettiest of bows. Whether you choose to let people see that side of you, that difficult, overwhelming tidal wave that bears down on the best of us, is certainly a personal decision. But just know that we all get them and it's okay. Then look for that silver lining, because I promise it's coming. It doesn't always happen right away but it'll come. You just have to wait for it.

As it's overtly documented, my life is swallowed up by my constant reality that I'm a mom to toddler quadruplets and they consume every waking second of my life. Sometimes they even intrude on the unwaking seconds, too, and that really tries my patience! But God decided that I could handle it and I can't even begin to count the number of days that I truly wonder if He thought far too much of me. I have dealt with some pretty heavy stuff in my life and some impressively heavy obstacles from a young age, but having quadruplets has been the most difficult thing I think I've ever experienced. Yet God doesn't make mistakes and in His infinite grace and wisdom, He has given me the strength and endurance I've needed to survive it all. From the difficult pregnancy to our NICU journey with the babies to my continuing recovery more than two years later, He's never left my side. It's like a trail of bread crumbs, if you will, that simply leads me from one step to the next. Never faster, never slower, just one step, one day at a time.

In the beginning of our adventure with four babies at home (they were two months old once they all graduated from the NICU), we were sleep deprived beyond belief and challenged beyond measure. Many of you know that story well by now and I appreciate that you're still here reading! The husband and I—as well as our parents who so graciously helped us through—experienced many days during which we felt like we couldn't take anymore. Then a baby would roll over or smile or laugh, or we'd get a rare break to go out for dinner together and reconnect or a chance to sleep for an extra hour, and somewhere deep down we'd find that ability to muster and do another bottle feeding or change our 24th diaper in as many hours.

Now, at two years of age, our sweet quad squad is challenging us and themselves more and more. There are the littlest of moments that keep me going on a daily basis for which I am so grateful. Like the afternoons when all four monkeys decide to stop climbing the walls and actually the same time....for more than two hours. And then I go to check the mail and find it full of new reading material and Netflix DVDs.

Or the solid 30 minutes I get when new toys are introduced and they're all infatuated and play contentedly before screaming like hyenas because she touched my arm and I pulled her hair, mommy. I value the menu of sure-fire meals that the quads will inhale when I don't feel like playing the guessing game about who's going to actually eat their scrambled eggs this morning when I made extra last time by request and no one touched them. I love the moments when I've had enough of the bickering and complaining and wonder just how long the teething is going to last, when I look in the play room and spot a completely naked toddler putting her pots in the play kitchen's oven and cooking up a storm without a second thought.

A perfect weather day is very treasured when we can spend time outdoors sans any ear-piercing screams or encroachment on personal space, and also not worry about triple digit heat, overzealous mosquitos or the two-minute sunburn. And thank God, thank the sweet Jesus, for Bubble Guppies, Paw Patrol and, dare I say it, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse—they are responsible for peace keeping and sanity saving on a near-daily basis. They are also often the reason that the laundry got washed or the dishwasher was actually emptied. (But don't judge me on the fact that clean clothes never get put away, they seem to simply get pulled from the basket until it's empty and ready to refill!)

I think the majority of my consolable moments happen at the beginning and end of each day. That's a pretty perfect place for them to occur, too, since I'm always excited and happy to see my babies in the morning and, after an incredibly long day, I feel nostalgic and motherly as I put them to bed. Logan will pat her mattress and say, "Now lay down, mommy," when I turn out the light and I'll lay with her beside me and Trystan on my stomach while we watch their projector light dance on the ceiling for a few minutes before I kiss them goodnight. Or Harrison will say, "Mommy rock you?" on nights I'm tucking them into bed and I cuddle up with him and Kailey in the rocker, those two long-legged kiddos that started out so small, overflowing from my lap and their heads on my chest.

It's hard to keep a brave face on all the time, which is exactly why sometimes I think I hit a low spot so that I can be on the upward curve again. There's power in feeling rejuvenated, even if it's just for an afternoon! The littlest moments can have the largest impact—on my life, on your life, on the life of someone you barely know. As I've matured into the person I am now and as I've learned so many compacted life lessons in the past two years, I know that I take joy in those fleeting seconds of complete determination and hope they'll help me coast onto the next phase, the next challenge. It's like a calm in the eye of the storm...
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{Tyke Bites} Quick B-Fast, Blackened Salmon & More

Hey y'all, here's another installment of Tyke Bites, featuring a random day of meals in Quadville!

This is what I refer to as my "easy" breakfast, something that's super quick to throw together on mornings I wake up late or we're trying to leave not long after eating as it takes five minutes to prep. I use whatever fresh fruit I have on hand, like grapes and raspberries, flavored Greek yogurt (the quads eat the Greek Gods brand and love the honey blueberry flavor!), mini chocolate Wheaties and Nutrigrain bars.

Lunch was grilled cheese, veggie chips, Caesar salad (they just started becoming interested in eating salad) and strawberries. It's nice when I can make myself a plate of the exact same thing and call it done!

For dinner, we do all eat the exact same thing. I make one meal and then supplement some fruit for the kiddos. Normally, what you're served is what you get and I don't offer anything extra. At dinner time, there's only a slight exception to that rule because I want to make sure the babies have eaten a sufficient amount to be sleeping through the night for 12 hours. If someone has really picked at their plate or not liked what they were served, they may get some Greek yogurt or applesauce to help top them off—and of course, everyone else is also offered some or there will be a mutiny.

This night's dinner was blackened salmon, roasted potatoes and garlic, cheese sticks, pineapple and strawberries for the kiddos. Momma and daddy added wine to round out our meal. ;)

And of course there's nothing better than butter cookies with chocolate and sprinkles! The kids go crazy over these and I let them each pick out their own cookie from the box, which they also enjoy because they must select the very best one even if it takes me five minutes, mom.

Be sure to check out my Tot Food board on Pinterest for more pint-sized bites! And in case you missed it, you can check out what we did the last two weekends here.
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{Weekend Recap} 24 Hour Getaway & Crazy Town

Things are still crazy at my house right now. Do you ever have those days where you're so tired that you can't figure out where to you pretty much end up doing nothing? That's pretty much where I'm at today. DEAD TO THE WORLD.  I change diapers, cut up food into tiny bite size pieces for the 5,657,309th time and wipe runny noses. Because that's the glamour of having two-year-old quadruplets in my life right now, folks. I temporarily live in Crazy Town. Be envious.

Somewhere just around two weeks ago things got real ugly in our house. And I'm blaming some bitch of some molars in my toddlers mouths for the time being, unless another cause makes itself obvious. Fevers, nose wiping, crying, screaming, clinginess, yelling like a banshee when I come in their room to sweetly get them out of bed in the morning. Every single day. (In case you didn't catch my post about all this loveliness before, check it out here. You know, so you can be all up to date on this torture. I wouldn't want you to miss anything.)

It's been everything I can do to keep up with things right now. The kids are driving me nuts and about halfway through each day, I'm really not sure I can take anymore. And it's not the whole, I'm-tired-and-just-really-don't-want-to-deal-with-anything-else type of feeling. It's like an I'm-leaving-for-the-beach-and-I'll-be-gone-three-months-tell-the-babies-I-love-them situation. Then I calm down for a second before I fall asleep late at night and it's just enough to salvage things and come back for more punishment the next day. Eek!

Except this afternoon, three out of four were crying non-stop and two of those three were reaching about three octaves higher than usual. You know that wailing, ear-piercing cry that sort of breaks into a raspy spiral at the end? Yeah, that one. It literally sends a chill down my spine. So I left them all in the capable hands of the husband who was pretty much ushering me out the door to go somewhere, anywhere, besides there. He knows when I need it more than I do myself sometimes, and it's actually rare that I just pick up and leave the house when people are around. The only times I'm gone are to run errands, like groceries, and go to physical therapy. All very thrilling outings and I relish every second. Especially when things get super crazy and I squeeze in a pedicure. Then I'm living on the edge. ;)

Often times, it surprises me when I read back my blog post before publishing it and I realize I haven't completely lost my sense of humor. In fact, it's probably a little misleading the way I write many of these posts because it doesn't sound like I've truly gone mental or am on the verge of a major anxiety attack. Coping mechanism, perhaps? Though not a terrible one, I'll admit. Plus I'm too tired to really speak it all out loud so perhaps the energy I'm saving by just transferring direct thoughts into text on a screen salvages the last bits of humor I have left. Consider yourselves extremely fortunate in that case.

Speaking of being so tired, the husband and I have both been clawing at the surface during those aforementioned past few weeks of hell on Earth. And last weekend the day had arrived for us to escape for a full 24 hours to a nearby hotel for the night while my parents took over and looked after the quadlings so we could be free. (I swear, Mel Gibson's William Wallace-voice echoes in my head each time we drive away like that... "freeeeeeeedoooomm!")

Our hotel was only 15 minutes away and after we'd checked out then gone downstairs and snagged a drink from the bar, I called Pizza hut and ordered dinner to be delivered to the house right at 6pm. All my parents had to do was cut up food into more bite sized pieces—a staple activity at our house, I swear I spend 90% of my time in the kitchen dicing away!—and hand out plates. Then the husband and I breathed a sigh of contentment, leaned farther back in our chairs and helped ourselves to the cheese board we'd ordered as a pre-dinner snack.

We headed back to the room later to rest and I leisurely read my Rachael Ray magazine and sorted out our meal plan for the next week, an activity I actually enjoy when I have more than six minutes! Then we went for dinner at Benihana's, since neither of us had been in years, we were both down for Asian food and it was less than five minutes from the hotel. It was perfect and so enjoyable and we had several drinks and got to just relax and take our time.

Sleeping in was also a highlight of our stay and we stopped by a movie theater after we checked out to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flick (I love all action films) then drove over to our church for a meet-and-greet with the pastor and staff as we hope to join soon.

The rest of the afternoon, we hung out in our living room with the quads and watched movies like Brave, which was incredibly cute! The curly red-headed triplet boys were cracking us up during the whole thing and the quads actually watched most of it, in between playing with blocks and coloring. Just to change things up, we ate sandwiches for dinner picnic-style on a blanket on the floor in the living room then went outside to play for awhile since it was no longer 100 degrees.

This weekend has been fairly low-key. We went out Friday night for drinks with the husband's coworkers and enjoyed staying out late and gettin' a little rowdy. I was also grateful to his parents for feeding the babies dinner and putting them to bed for us while we were gone, it was nice to have a break!

With it being so hot, I've adopted a new hairstyle I'd had pinned on my Pinterest beauty board for awhile and love how simple and easy it is, while looking nice and keeping my hair off my neck. I get soooo hot these days all the time. Get the how-to here. I didn't twist my hair as low and loose and the second time I did it, I added some braids for texture.

Saturday morning we all slept in then had biscuits and sausage for breakfast, before piling into the suburban and making for Meemaw and Grandad's house for a surprise visit. They loved it and so did the kids! We had such a nice time that we stayed for lunch, which was easy since I'd brought applesauce squeeze pouches and a ziploc of frozen organic chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries that I just put in the oven to cook.

Back home, after we gave the kids baths and before we put them to bed, they started dancing with each other, which sort of erased any shell shock I'd been in during the week before and made them all cute and wonderful again. Do you see the cycle now!? I know you veteran parents spotted it a mile away...

Today (Sunday), we were supposed to go to church and then have a swim lesson this afternoon but a monsoon of a storm blew in during the wee hours and changed all those plans. The husband had to go to my parent's house to help them suck water out of their kitchen and den, since everything was starting to flood. I did make this pot roast, which was insanely delicious so I paired it with an insane amount of homemade buttery mashed potatoes. Then ate way too much, but I'm justifying it by the fact that it's probably my only meal for the day.

Then the kids started screaming and becoming increasingly unhappy, so I left and now you've come full circle to where I started. At Starbucks on my laptop, typing out bewildered humorous thoughts about my life and wishing away molar teething temperaments and ear-bursting wails.

Figure I've got a little time to respond to some work emails and pick up groceries before I have to return to Crazy Town, since I left two boxes of mac-and-cheese on the counter with a sticky note that read, "dinner." No doubt the husband will be thrilled.
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{Littles Learning} Ocean Week

I've officially added a new category to my regular posts called "Littles Learning." I'll be filing everything that has to do with educational activities, crafts and outings for the quad squad under that so hopefully it's easier to find and refer back to as we share our experiences on the blog!

A couple posts ago, I mentioned the book-and-craft combos I kickstarted each week, inspired by my fellow quad mom, Amber, who also shared her own literacy-based craft ideas on her blog, Four to Adore. Things have sort of taken off for us from there and last week we did an ocean theme with various associated crafts, books and activities.

Before you start thinking I'm all organized and on top of things, please know that just because I'm showing you photos of all these things we did in a week that the rest of the time my house is clean, my kids are well-behaved and I live behind a white picket fence. Some of these activities lasted five minutes while others lasted an hour, some were met with smiles and unfettered interest and others were met with cries and protests and throwing of things. So, you know, to each his own and stuff like that. ;)

I am no chalk artist but I did try to get a little creative with our chalkboard fireplace cover! I figured I might as well find as many ways as possible to incorporate the theme or lesson or book I'm focusing on each week in as many ways as possible. So I drew a couple sea animals on the board and was one proud momma when my little red-head, Trystan, could easily identify each one by the end of the week!

We read our beloved Pout Pout Fish books several times that week...

And I also went out on a limb and tried an activity I'm not normally drawn to, which is to make any kind of "goop" for my kids to get all over them, much less one that required I use my kitchen accessories to do it! But the sea foam activity proved a success and the kids loved it. I put 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup dish soap, 1 tablespoon corn starch into my mixer and put it on high for several minutes until it got nice and foamy. I used washable finger paint to add a little color without running the risk of staining everything within reach of 40 little fingers. Then I realized that my leisurely pace wasn't going to cut it as foam began morphing into soppy colored water in the bottom of my plastic bin, so I churned out enough bowl fulls of whipped soap as fast as I could and hauled the bin to my front porch for the kids to explore.

I hid some sea shells, plastic sea animals and plastic spoons in the bottom of the bin for them to find, and also switched bins halfway through my foam making-process because a shallow, longer container worked better for toddler access.

Another afternoon, while Granddad read Pout Pout Fish, I gave each of the kids an empty water bottle, some small sea shells and little colored gemstones (which were a buck for a sack from Wal-Mart) to start their ocean bottle craft. They spent a good ten minutes emptying the shells out of their bottles then putting them all back in.

After both books had been read, I turned on a slideshow of underwater animals that I'd quickly compiled on my laptop and played this ocean wave soundtrack while I went down the line and helped them each scoop a few tablespoons of sand each into their bottles. (Yes, we got sand elsewhere besides the bottles and yes, I tried not to sweat all the sand that Bam Bam managed to sling everywhere in 2.5 seconds!) Then I added a little glitter, two drops of blue food coloring and some water to finish it off. I used a hot glue gun and squeezed some glue to the inside of the cap before screwing it back on so that the quads couldn't open their bottles and tie dye the carpet in their play room! When I handed each one back their bottle, I also gave them a small sheet of fish stickers to add to the outside since I couldn't find any small toy fish to go inside the bottles. They actually really enjoyed decorating with the stickers, even if they started peeling them off their bottles a few days later. Whatever gets the longest attention span and keeps these toddlers happy!

After the craft was completed and while I vaccumed up some of the wayward sand, the kiddos each got a Bubble Guppies cup of goldfish—I know, so theme-perfect right?!—and settled in on the couch in the play room to watch The Reef, a cute little animated underwater adventure.

We also watched a couple Bubble Guppies episodes throughout the week that dealt with sea animals or the like as well as our Baby Einstein Baby Neptune DVD, our Baby Genius Underwater Adventures DVD (where they learned about seals and can now identify those as well) and any other show I could find that coincided with the ocean. All this replaced our usual afternoon animated TV watching since we try to keep the TV off during the morning and save that little nugget of entertainment for post-naps. Momma needs all the help she can get!

Other activities that I'd considered but did not get to included these adorable handprint crabs, seashell matching, a construction paper underwater scene and a fishbowl paper plate craft.

All in all, I think the quads really enjoyed the activites and I felt good knowing we'd do some new things and new experiences for both sensory and learning. Look forward to sharing our color series with y'all!

Up next: a delightful Weekend Recap...
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