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Friday, January 31, 2014

The Truth Is...

I visited my friend Shawna recently, a life-long friend who I have known since birth.  We grew up right across the street from each other and she just entered the realm of being a MoM (Mom-of-Multples) by adding twin boys to her family of 3.  I love catching up with her, and we could talk (with loud giggles, just like when we were young) for hours.  Literally.
Shawna mentioned to me that when reading my blog it looks like I have it all together.  Then I giggled loudly (and a little hysterically) because we were in the thick of talking about how chaotic life is, me with my 5 and Shawna with two 4 week old boys and a daughter not-quite 2!
The truth is my blog posts are slices of life, not a total picture of our life!  The truth is, I do the best I can but absolutely have so many moments throughout the day where I wish I would have reacted better or said things better or done things differently.  The truth is, well, here we go-

The Truth Is...

Life is crazy busy & my brain short-circuits all the time.  A dozen times a day I will start to do something with a purpose and then totally forget what I was doing.  I want to accomplish a million things and only accomplish minimal.  I still go day by day and when anyone asks me about something in my schedule later on in the week, I start to feel overwhelmed.  I don't know why.  Probably because I still take it day by day.  Hour by hour.  Sometimes, minute by minute.

The truth is, sometimes I LOSE it.  I admit:  I definitely have those not-so-good-mama moments.  Like when I yell at a child for wiggling and crying on the changing table when all I want to do is change their soiled diaper.  They act like I am tearing toenails off.  It should be an Olympic Sport and it gets old.  Yelling does not help, by the way.  They still fight the diaper change, but then cry bitterly on top of the Houdini wiggling.  And I feel frustrated with myself for yelling at a child, and worse, modeling it to Jenna (who then will yell at them later on and I really feel like the mom of the year then...).
Or, consider bath night: where you might find children one at a time being pulled out of the tub.  I am trying to lotion & wrestle a diaper on one, someone else is discovering the joy of toilet paper unraveling, Jenna is changing into a ballet outfit and coming in the bathroom every 2 seconds to see if anyone is ready to play, the others in the tub are getting cold and everyone is tired & cranky.  Perhaps everyone is screaming.  This can tend to render me weary and in several occasions I have to admit I reach my breaking point, and scream.  Loudly.  Not that I am proud of it, but it usually causes everyone to quiet immediately and look at me.  It's like pressing ctrl+alt+delete.  Sometimes they go back to their shenanigans, sometimes I do a 180º & break into a soothing song.  Either way, after I scream I feel stupid for loosing control but honestly it feels a little good, too, to get the frustration out.  Yup.  It's the truth.

The truth is, most days I do not look like the lady on the header of this blog, I look like this:
Crazed look in eyes, hair pulled back, not showered, no make-up on.  Yup.
 Or, when I actually shower, like this:
Hair pulled back, make-up on, still a slightly crazed look in eyes & surrounded by chaos!
The truth is, background music of children crying, screaming, whining and/or fighting is almost always on in our house.  I get so use to it that it doesn't even phase me.  When Andy or I hear a "THUMP" from the other room, we casually look in that direction while happily singing, "You're OK!  Uh, OH!" and carrying on our business unless it really looks serious.
Lauren is beside herself because Tanner grabbed the toy from her hands.  Happens ALL the time.
The truth is, Stuff Happens.  I try to have plans.  Keep control.  Menu plan.  But, this is life.  And the truth is, "stuff" always happens.  There is always the Ideal Plan A, then B, followed by Plans C-Z.  Like the other night.  I made a nice pork roast for dinner, grilled polenta, and sautéed zucchini & corn.  Sounds good, right?  As I pulled the pork out of the oven, the glass dish literally spontaneously shattered in my hands.  All over everything.  Thankfully Andy was home that night but we both looked at each other with a panicked look as 5 already seated & very hungry kids stared at us... so, as quick as I could, I microwaved four packs of Ramen Noodles while Andy haphazardly broke off chunks of lunch meat for them to nosh in the meantime.  I didn't even attempt a veggie, which usually is a BIG DEAL to me.  Canned fruit cocktail for dessert (the kind with heavy syrup) rounded out our healthy dinner.  Our wonderful meal got tossed in the trash with the bonus prize of a fun clean-up.  Whatever.  It happens.
At least they were very happy about a Ramen Noodle dinner.
The truth is, Andy & I still have moments where we can't believe we have quadruplets +1.  Some of the scenarios of our everyday life seems so ludicrous at times that all you can do is laugh and shake your head in disbelief that this is the new normal.  Like when I literally have a necklace of 3 or more crying, screaming, attention-hungry & teething kids and am home alone and need to finish dinner and someone else starts to cry and someone steps on my very full bladder and I smell a poopy or two that needs changing and my phone rings and something is burning in the oven and on no, someone's lip is bleeding.  Those kind of moments :).

The truth is, I am relying on truths learned from bible studies years ago and quick snippets of often selfish prayers to get me by.  And they do, because even when I am too busy for God, He never is too busy for me.  And He over & over & over again quickly supplies me with portions of patience, peace, or even (wonder of wonders) joy & contentment in my daily grind right when I think I will lose it.  God is ever so good, and He is ever so personal in his love....
This little book has daily words of encouragement in it that are short yet powerful.
I don't get to it every morning and I don't turn into a saint when I do,
but let me just say these pages speak words of encouragement to my parched soul.
The truth is, nap times are NEVER long enough.  I naively think I will somehow get to all my "to do's" during naps.  This has never happened and I am quite certain never will.  As I type, kids are boisterously calling from their room, telling me they are done with their nap.  And have been the last half hour.

Is it too much to ask them to sleep a solid 2-3 hour nap each day?!?
Apparently so. ;)

Oh, and another thing:
The truth is, I think molars & eye-teeth might be the death of us. 

The truth is, I would choose the chaotic moments of my life every single time versus not having them.  I am deeply aware that too many people encounter "normals" that are filled with sadness, grief, despair and/or choking depression.  Far too many of us face circumstances that are difficult, uncomfortable, and just plain not fair.  Life if hard, and it didn't take having quadruplets to know this.  All of us face trials.  If you suck air, chances are you have, currently are, or will soon experience them.

The truth is, every day I have a choice.  I can choose to view my hectic, busy, crazy, noisy life as a joy or not.  And I choose Joy.  Because they are.  If I sound like Pollyanna, so be it.  However, the truth is that I know from experience if I focus on the stress, the negative, the inconveniences in life, the things that pull me away from ME, I very easily get discontented.  Which leads to feelings of self-pity.  Which leads me to feeling entitled to far more than I deserve.  Which leads me down a path.... that is focused all on ME ME ME.  And there is no room for others, especially my loving God & amazing family, when I am all about me.

The truth is, I started writing this blog over a month ago.  Which means I have been editing along the way, which means this post went something like this:  I typed complaint, complaint, vent, vent, complaint, vent and complaint.  Then in more serene, pensive and quiet moments, I would delete some paragraphs & write silver lining stuff.

The truth is, I do NOT have it all together.  Far from it.  I complain more often than I should and I need to hear the words of truth & hope I penned at the end of this post just as much, if not more, than anyone else.  Complaining comes very naturally to me, as does self-pity, discontentment, and feelings of inadequacy.   I am working on it.  That's the truth.



Monday, January 20, 2014

A Day at the Museum!

Today we took advantage of Jenna having the day off for the MLK holiday and decided to go to the Grand Rapids Public Museum!  

There is the COOLEST dinosaur exhibit there right now with life-sized dinosaurs that move and roar.  Jenna & I have been talking about going for months now, but I have been very hesitant to 1. go on a weekend (too busy with my super-sized stroller!) and 2. go without help.  Thankfully our neighbors have been wanting to go to the exhibit too,  so today worked perfect!  

The exhibit was fantastic and everyone did great.  Diane and her four youngest girls Courtney, Sabrina, Destiny & Lanie joined Jenna, the babies & I at the museum.  We enjoyed a nice couple of hours exploring the sights, sounds, and experiences of the museum and its exhibits.
Digging for dinosaur bones
Enjoying a carousel ride

The babies did GREAT!  I have these backpack-harnesses for them to wear just in case I need to keep physical tabs on more than one little munchkin, but because it was not too busy and there was lots of space to explore (& lots of eager helpers!), they were able to wander around and explore easily.

These dinosaurs were INTIMIDATING, but Hannah and Lauren just wanted to jabber away at them without fear!  The boys were more mesmerized than anything else, and Jenna kept on asking me (with a slight tinge of concern) if they were indeed fake.  Yes kiddo, but they even gave mommy a little jolt!  

I think Hannah & Jenna look so much alike!
Believe it or not, the only person who mentioned all the kiddos was the lady collecting tickets for the carousel ride.  She asked, "Is this some kind of a daycare?", to which I laughed and said, "No, just 2 moms and our kids!"

I love how the quads are now old enough to really enjoy stuff like this.  It was a delight and we were so glad to do something fun of the house!

What exciting things have you done lately?



Sunday, January 5, 2014

Food $aving Tips (that are frugal, fast, nutritious and toddler-approved!)

Gone are the days of pureed foods & airy puffs for my small tribe.  Today, our kids eat and eat and eat A LOT!  Most of the time they eat whatever we eat, but I often need to make food that is quick, nutritious, and frugal!  
Jenna is a stickler for declaring she does not like anything with vegetables in it, so the past few years I became very good at learning the art of secretly adding veggies into foods.  For example, adding steamed, pureed broccoli with a bit of parmesan cheese into mashed potatoes.  Folding pureed cauliflower into Alfredo sauce.  Using "veggie pasta".  Adding tomato sauce to whatever I could.  Tossing handfuls of chopped kale into just about anything.... and of course all the while offering it to her normally with meals & in raw forms too, so she understood that eating vegetables was just normal.  However, by me "hiding"vegetables, I figured I was doing a 1-2 punch- I would count it a bonus if she ate more than a nibble of anything "healthy"!
BUT that was when my main goal was to give my one child nutritious foods.  Now with the quaddlers added to the mix, my main objective is to feed the masses (quickly!) without going broke and while still staying nutritious.  Easier said than done!

Here are some of my favorite toddler-approved food-shortcuts I have found to be helpful in not only stretching the dollar, but also in incorporating healthy stuff into everyday meals.  Hope some of these tricks work for you!

1.  Eggcellent breakfast Soufflé
OK, so here's the deal- bread is healthy and cheap, and FILLING.  But, one shared slice of toast and my kids seemed to often throw the rest on the floor or not eat it.  They all LOVE scrambled eggs and cheese for breakfast, but I was literally going through 5-6 eggs a day on breakfast alone!  One day, frustrated I tore up a few slices of bread, added it to the scrambled eggs breakfast, added a little more milk, and viola!  Total utter scarfed yumminess.  Between this and oatmeal, it's what's for breakfast in our household  almost every morning!  I can get away with using less eggs (3-4) for breakfast and know they are getting whole grains and lots of protein from the eggs, cheese & milk.  Whoot whoot!

2.  Applesaucey Juice
Oh, this is one of my favorite tricks!  I somehow came up with it on my own one morning when the only fruit in the house was applesauce.  My gang is not quite handy with a spoon yet & applesauce is too thin to spoon feed, but it is cheap, easily available, and healthy (I buy unsweetened).  Then I remembered working as an OT at a private practice one summer and there were kids coming in for feeding therapy.  Working with speech therapists, the OT's collaborated on all kinds of feeding strategies, one being drinking applesauce through a straw.  It promotes better mouth, cheek, throat & tongue strength when sucking the thick applesauce through a straw, which can improve speech production and improve the oral-motor tone of the mouth.  So back to my own kids- I decided to fill a cup (take n toss cups work excellent) with half applesauce, a quarter apple juice and a quarter water.  The kids literally go crazy over this stuff and it makes me feel all therapist-y with my children. :)

3.  Don't-spare-a-bone Chicken Noodle Soup
Just about every time I go shopping I buy one of those rotisserie chickens.  Back in my former life when I use to cook for fun, I loved making stock out of the bones & using it to make homemade chicken noodle soup, complete with homemade noodles and homemade bread!  I would simmer it all day long.  When the babies came, so did my indulgent foodie lifestyle.  However, I still bought these chickens and felt guilty throwing the bones away.  Then somewhere I saw a tip where you can make homemade stock overnight in the crock pot.  Now why didn't I think of that?
So this is what I do:
We get the chicken & eat it.  That night I pick the rest of the meat off the bones (there usually is a lot more than it looks like).  I dump the yucky remains in a lined crock pot, fill it with water, toss in some peppercorns, a few bay leaves, some salt & garlic cloves.  I then go to bed and let it cook on low all night.  Then next day I strain the stock, throw out the guts, put another liner in the crock pot & add the stock and chicken.  I buy celery, carrots & onions & try to make a very large Mirepoix blend (that's a fancy word for the 3 diced veggies sauté in oil for a few minutes).  I freeze 1-2 portions for later on, and add 1 large portion to my strained stock & chicken.  I season with rosemary, thyme, sage, salt & pepper.  You can either put noodles in the crock pot mixture or boil some and add them to the soup.  If you add noodles it will soak up the broth and it will be more like a noodle casserole, if you boil the noodles in water the soup remains more brothy (I like wide egg noodles).  If I have time (ha) I can make homemade bread in our bread-maker, but often rolls or garlic bread will do.
This. Soup. Is. Awesome.

The yuckies simmer in spiced water overnight.  I put the skin in there too, but you don't have to.
Seriously this soup is so good and the stock gives it a deep, rich flavor.  
4.  Mac (n Carrots) & Cheese
This one is really easy.  Make mac n cheese like you always do (for me that is Kraft, or sometimes I use elbow macaroni & Velveta cheese).  Add one 4 oz container of pureed carrots baby food or 4 oz of your own homemade carrot puree.  Done.  It actually makes it a little sweet and more orange, so kids think it's more cheezy.  My kids know no other way!

5.  One Bowl Wonders
If I didn't mention it yet, all 5 of our kids LOVE pasta.  Not so much potatoes or even breads, so I make a lot of meals starring= pasta!  Good news is that it is cheap.  Bad news is I get in ruts often, but I found that any type of pasta+meat+veggies+liquid/sauce will work all in one pan.  Since I don't like to do any more dishes than necessary (who does?), my one bowl wonders are often my "go to" style of cooking most nights.  It goes a little something like this:
Look in Fridge.  What meats do we have?  Condiments?  Veggies?  Hmmmmmm.....
Cook meat in pan.  Pick out a pasta that seems to match that meat for the night (I buy lots of varieties).  Toss the veggies into pan & cook them once the meat is cooked. Either boil pasta in water or throw it in the pan with some sort of a liquid.  These include, but are not limited to: chicken or beef stock, water, jarred tomato sauce, a mixture of any of these, etc.  Let the liquid reduce and add a binder if necessary (sadly, my "binder" these days is Velveta but cheese does works well).  Toss it all together, season as needed, and there you go.  A One Bowl Wonder.
This is an excellent way to clean out the fridge.  Do you have salsa that needs to be used?  Throw it in with some corn & beans for a Mexican flare.  Do you have Teriyaki salad dressing that is sitting around?  Wonderful.  Make it an Asian noodle bowl.  Do you have parmesan cheese and canned tomatoes?  Sounds like Italian to me.  No two meals are the same and you will get better at the art of this the more you do it.  If you are a spontaneous throw in & not measure kind of cook, this one's for you!

Looks like this one was beef, gemelli pasta, broccoli, tomato sauce, and Velveta.  

I hope at least one of these meals/tips has inspired you!  
Please feel free to share any Food $aving tips or recipes that you have found to be quick, nutritious & frugal!



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

So long, 2013! Our Christmas Recap...

The Christmas season is always a magical time of year, and this year was no exception.  An ice storm made for craziness and lots of power outages heading up to and through the holidays (we lost our power for a few days but thankfully got it back on Christmas day- yeah for our generator!) but man did it make for a enchanted landscape.  What beauty!  Auntie Kim snapped this photo of our driveway & front yard.

Every year for Christmas, we go to Church on Christmas Eve with the family and then go to Andy's parents house for dinner.  Christmas morning is at home, and Christmas afternoon until evening at my mom & John's house.  We are very blessed to have family living close by so the commute is a non-issue.  My sister Kathy came to visit with her 2 daughters from Texas this year and it was SO NICE having them visit!  Here are some photo recaps of our Christmas & holiday season:
Christmas Eve @ Niemeyer's
Our family has grown over the years and no longer fits into just one pew at the in-law's church!  By the way, Andy was not happy at me here because I snapped a picture in church.  He knows me too well- I wanted to capture the moment for the blog!  I mean, it was Jenna's first time holding a real candle at church, singing Silent Night!  Awwww....
The grandkids/cousins at Mimi & Papa's
Papa, Tanner in his Christmas pj's & Mimi


The quads all looked so cute in their holiday gear, but getting a shot of all 4 is impossible!

Christmas Morning at Home

This was the only picture I took, then it got a little busy and I forgot to snap more photos.  We don't do too many presents, being on a tight budget.  However, there are always fun goodies in stockings and a neat tradition passed down from my family.  If you have been good for the year, you get an apple in your stocking.  Fairly good, you get something like an orange, pear, or banana.  If you have been a little naughty, a potato or even an onion might be in the toe of the stocking.  You definitely don't want that.  Or-- if you were just awful-- you might find a lump of coal!  Total humiliation.

Thankfully, Jenna got an apple!  So did mommy (who may or may not have been stuffing stockings).  The babies got bananas & pears.  Daddy was being a little bah-humbugish the night before Christmas and so he got... a zucchini.  Not sure what that means exactly, but mom & dad sure did get a kick out of it.  Jenna thought it was silly, too!

Christmas at John & Mom's
Like I said before, it was great having Kathy visit with her two daughters, Autumn & Allana!
The family, minus the husbands!  Back row are sisters/mommies Cindy, Becky & Kathy.
Hannah kept on dancing to the music from this new toy.  It was hilarious!
Christmas Craziness.  But so much fun!
Allana in hat & Jenna were so excited with every present under the tree!  

Grandpa, Grandma & grandkids

"Christmas cookies, please!"
Post-Christmas Fun
With Kathy & her girls in town, my mom sprung for her to stay a night at a hotel with a pool/waterslide.  The kids, along with some extra friends and cousins, joined grandma & mommies for some water fun!
There was absolutely no need for me to ask for help holding babies: as you can see, I had ample offers for help :)

I did not see Jenna much this night- all she did was go down the slide over & over & over & over & over over & over & over & over & over & over & over & over....

As for how the babies did, they all liked splashing in the water but after about a half hour the boys' lips turned blue and they were clearly DONE with the water.  We went in for a hot bath and the girls joined us shortly after.  At least everyone slept well that night (Jenna & Allana snuggled on the floor together)!


Hope you and your family were able to close out 2013 well, whether it was a year filled with joy, sorrow, accomplishments, frustrations, or failures.  Perhaps it was little bit of everything.

For me, it definitely was a busy year but one filled with lots of joy among the inevitable struggles of raising Jenna + quadruplets.  It was a year where we started 2013 just trying to figure it all out, and although life has been difficult & VERY busy, I can honestly look back at the last year and feel happy, content, and extremely blessed.  Extremely blessed.  God has given Andy & I five healthy, happy kids.  I have a husband who I will celebrate 10 years of marriage with in two days, and he is my best friend.  We have grown stronger with every year, every step together, and I love my man so much.  We have amazing family and friends.  We have jobs.  We have a house.  And we humbly serve a God who blesses us far more than we ever could deserve.

Thank you so much for living the last year with us...

I wish you a Very Happy New Year 
& I hope 2014 is full of many 
joyful, cherished moments for you!