Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Random Reflections on this 7th Birthday

The kiddos turn 7 today.  I know this because they’ve been counting down since 18 days.  And as April 23rd rolls around each year, I have the same thoughts and all the feelings as I reflect on how we’ve made it through another 365 days.

The days are long and the years are short.  So cliche, right?  But so true.  I don’t know how many times someone tells a story from the baby and toddler days about something I did or said or that the kids did and my response is “I don’t remember that but I believe you.”  Because it went by in a blur.  Besides major events, medical histories, and random song lyrics- I don’t remember.  “How did you do ____?”  I’m not sure, but we did it.  I’m very helpful like that.

7 years!  Seven.  Years.  7 years of being known as “the lady with all the babies”... by the way- my name is Lauren... and they’re not babies anymore.  They’re so their own little people now.  About as independent as a person can be at that age.  I love seeing them learn new things and play together and how they care for each other.  The fighting I could do without, but who doesn’t fight with their siblings?  I could also do without the big kid attitudes, but I know we’re just getting started there.  And who knew 1st grade is the new 4th grade?!  They’re learning and dealing with things I wasn’t expecting for a few years.  Pretty sure I blew a few life lesson conversations, but I’m sure I’ll get more chances.

Every year when I look back, the biggest thing that always sticks out in my mind is how faithful God has been to our family and how He works through us and our Team Perkins Pack.  It’s truly remarkable.  The sheer fact that these 6 kids are even here.  And we aren’t completely insane.  Doctors told me my pregnancy made no scientific sense... and they were right- it didn’t. But this was meant to happen.  I always wanted to be a stay at home mom, and I got what I wanted- just not how I thought I would.  In the bouts of infertility, I was once told God would grant me the desires of my heart- but I needed to relinquish my control and seek Him.  I didn’t even realize how much control I was holding on to.   Learning to trust and have faith is so hard but so liberating.  And I’m still working on it.  Thankfully, I’m forgiven for all the many mess ups and God still shows up.

I have so many stories about how people have come into our family at just the right time, and right when we truly needed each other.  I know these things are beyond coincidence.  They’re God stories and they’re my favorite!  Too many to type on one post, but I recently realized something about many of our Perkins Pack people.  Out of all the people who have helped us the last 7 years, a handful stand out as putting in MAJOR time and commitment and just being involved in their lives.  Some have moved on and some are more recent, but all of them had the desire for children in their lives and didn’t have kids and/or grandkids of their own for various reasons.  And here I am with plenty to share!  All God.  What if I had held on to that control?  Not been open enough to let people in to see our messy?  Our good, bad, and ugly?  Given in to the times I wanted to scream “Everybody get out of my house!”?  All the blessings that would be lost.  Precious relationships.  A couple things that were told to me back in the baby days that have stuck with me... 1. when you turn down offers of help, you’re taking away a blessing from someone.  2. Your family is now your mission field.  Raising these kids and how you interact with all the people that are coming in and out of your family’s life.  God’s love and purpose can be shown through your situation.

Such truth.  Stories are meant to be shared.  God uses us all and in all kinds of situations.  Let your story be used.  Don’t waste it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

And then they were SIX

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about in over two years, it’s that I haven’t felt like it or was just too dang brain tired to do so.  I’m sure I’ll regret this lack of memory preserving one day (kinda already do), but it is what it is.  Time keeps on flying by.  These kiddos just finished up KINDERGARTEN!!  Like for real had a kindergarten graduation (I’ll spare you my opinion on this).  I remember a time when kindergarten was all my dreams were made of- 6 years in a blur, but I have a distinct memory of being surrounded by babies and repeatedly thinking “If I can only make it till kindergarten...”.  And look!  We’ve done it.  I have six 6 year olds y’all!  What in the what?!

Before we get to the individual break downs of sextupletness, the kindergarten FAQ:

- They were split 3/2/1 in classes: Caroline Ben and Levi; Allison and Andrew; Leah.  No, not sure what the plan for next year will be, but I will be asking the kids’ opinions.

- I packed lunches, backpacks, and had clothes laid out the night before or else we’d never make it on time.  Cut it close every single day as it was.

- They all have loved school and done well and have learned way more than I ever did in kindergarten.  Homework was optional and we generally opted out.

- Andrew got in trouble the most.  Actually, he’s the only one I know of who was ever in trouble.  He’s a sweet boy, but sometimes doesn’t listen and sometimes just plain talks too much.

- None of them liked going to school more than I loved dropping them off in the morning!  Sweet taste of freedom- for a few hours on weekdays ;) The school year spoiled me.

Now without further ado... in birth order... my six year olds:

Andrew Noah

This boy.  He is a goober.  I know that may sound bad, but really, that’s Andrew.  Who he gets his extremely outgoing nature from, I haven’t a clue.  He knows no stranger and has no filter.  Things he has recently said to complete strangers (after properly introducing himself with his full name, of course, and likely any and all family members present):

I came out first.
In August we go swimming.
Want to see my ninja moves? 
Are you coming with us to ___?

... he’ll end with whatever personal questions pop into his head.  He makes friends wherever he goes!  While the others tend to stick together, Andrew is likely to find his own people to hang out with.  Once when I went to eat lunch with them at school, he sat down with another family and ate with them.  Thankfully, that parent found him entertaining. 
He’s still sensitive, a scaredy cat, a little bit of a bully, but loves his people big.  I get “you’re the best mom ever” almost daily from him.  He’s the tallest pack member by a head, yet still wants to be picked up and flipped around like the littles.  But don’t let that gooberness fool you, he’s much smarter than he lets on.  And you really should see his ninja moves.  

Benjamin Luke

Oh Benny Boy.  A true Perkins indeed.  Why change when you can be perfectly content in your own quirkiness?  Yes, he still calls himself Benny Boy and makes others call him that too.  But I have heard at school he lets his teachers call him Ben.  He’s been rocking the long sleeve, shorts, and sandals wardrobe for a solid 3 years now.  3 years.  Long sleeves.  In Houston.  He is that stubborn.  And bossy as bossy can be.  And his siblings listen to him!  He says he wants to do nothing when he grows up, but I think he’ll be a boss- of something.  He loves attention when he wants it, and if he doesn’t just do yourself a favor and do not look in his direction.  He’ll willingly perform “tricks” or share another “great idea”... or he may go sneak off to play by himself.  He’s my night owl.  I often find him up way past bedtime looking at books, which of course leads to fun school mornings.  Ben is still my talker.  Not as much constant commentary as he used to give, but detailed accounts of his day or upcoming plans or instructions.  My Ben Boo has so many nicknames and still charms the pants off most people he meets.  His little old man ways are pretty cute.  And he could survive on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches alone.  Preferably of the double decker variety.

Caroline Grace

Sweet Caroline! Or Sweet Caroline?  Depends on the hour with this girl.  No matter her mood, she’s a girl who knows what she wants and makes it known.  Which sometimes requires a calm down break (aka time out).  Silly, smart, and stubborn to the nth degree (some people say she gets it from me, but what do they know).  She loves pink and often wears it head to toe, but HATES anything remotely girly.  Don’t you dare try to fix her hair or make her wear a dress.  Trust me, not worth it.  I never wanted a tomboy...because what do I do with one of those?  But I got me one.  Caroline loves to color, read, and soak up as much one on one time as she can.  Just about any adult will do, but she’s a mommy’s girl at heart.  Every single day she wants to “do a workout” with me.  Just the two of us.  Sometimes it’s running around the block, but usually she locks us in the master bedroom and we take turns calling out exercises for the other to do.  Sounds like a blast right?!  But then she’ll completely ignore me when I’m visiting them at school.  Won’t sit with me at lunch, cries when I enter the classroom, and sometimes won’t even look in my direction.  But then again, this girl’s always been a little complicated.  She still loves breakfast, being a helper, and sleep.  She asks to take a nap most days and still sucks her two middle fingers.  And she is awful proud of her toots.  That’s my girl ;)

Leah Michelle

Leah Peah.  She is such a joy!  Happiest disposition of anyone I know.  You know something is wrong in her world when she isn’t happy.  Especially if music doesn’t cure what ails her.  Music is still her love language.  Uptown Funk and the entire musical collection of Laurie Berkner never get old to her.  We’ve been listening to the same selection of songs for 5 1/2 years- everyday- but it’s worth her calm and happiness.  Basically, I’m a master tuner outer at this point.  She loves cuddles and kisses as much as she loves music.  She’s getting kinda big and awkward to cuddle, but we make it work.  Leah loves being in the water too- bath time and pool time relax her.  Since the last time I posted, Leah’s health has been a roller coaster.  We’ve learned to manage new things to hopefully avoid some downs, but you just never know.  Despite the setbacks, Leah is still hitting her inchstones (we don’t focus on milestones ;)) in school and therapy.  She works her booty off and is completely exhausted by the time both are over every weekday.  She is a speed demon in her gait trainer- even on carpet, rocks some cause and effect toys, and is learning to use switches to communicate and identify objects.  She has become much more vocal this year- she uses her vocalizations to respond to questions and make her opinions known.  She has different tones for whining, being tired, pain, excitement, and what we call “drama”.  Her siblings help a bit in her care now too.  All her teachers tell me she’s their favorite.  They may tell that to every parent, but I like to think it’s true.  

Allison Kate

My Little Miss.  We don’t call her Smidge anymore, but she’s still a tiny little thing.  And she knows how to play that card too.  But she can hold her own against her siblings when she needs to.  Allison always has been and always will be the little mommy of the group.  She knows what should be done, what needs to be done, and tries her best to keep everyone in line.  Sometimes even me!  She loves her teacher and wants to stay in kindergarten forever.  Alli is by far the shyest of the pack- unless she’s on our cooking videos- and is usually terrified to go into new social situations or try anything she might not be perfect at.  Perfectionist indeed.  Once when we were decorating cookies, she was meticulously placing sprinkles and such on her cookie while a sibling haphazardly dumped on theirs. She looked over and exclaimed “Ugh.  That is so wrong.”  And she’s my girly girl.  Princesses and pretty dresses and painted nails and make up- YES! But no hair fixing.  She is extremely responsible for her age and I’ve said before if she were my only one, I could take naps all day and not worry a bit about what she’s doing.

Levi Thomas

Little Dude.  Monkey Man.  Levi has about as many nicknames as Ben.  What he lacks in stature, he makes up for in personality!  All things butt, poop, and fart are hilarious these days.  Levi still loves to make everyone laugh and act as  silly as can be.  But he can also pop an attitude with the best of em.  Sometimes I think he’s going on sixteen with his eye rolls and smart responses.  He’s got a quick temper too- we call it the “Levi freak outs”, but he’s also quick to calm down and go back to his sweet, caring self.  Levi has been my big surprise in school.  He truly loves to learn.  He constantly asks questions about everything, how it works, and why it is.  Sometimes I don’t know the answers!  I thought he’d be too easily distracted for school, but he’s proven me wrong.  Levi is very into art and drawing right now.  He’s already drawing better than I can and has the best handwriting of any left-handed 6 year old boy I’ve ever seen.  He’s not as outgoing as Andrew, but still much more so than the others.   I recently found out he told the one kid no one wants to play with that he’d be his friend.  I love that he noticed and cared.  Levi has always been independent and moved to the beat of his own drum.  But he still needs his mommy hugs and cuddles.  He still loves music but now race cars are in the mix too.    He’s very much my jack of all trades and no telling what he’ll end up doing with all of his skills.

I love how very different they all are and seeing each child develop into their own person.  Yet, they’re still the best of friends and undoubtedly share a special bond.  They have each started forming their own friendships at  school, and of course fight like siblings do, but still play so well together, encourage each other, and love their brothers and sisters so.

I can’t ever end a birthday post without a thank you.  Our Perkins Pack support team has amazed me from day one and continues to do so.  A few people have stuck around for 6 years and others have come and gone, but the fact that so many have given of themselves to help  us has never gone unnoticed or unappreciated.  From the little things to the big, THANK YOU for your kindness and generosity!!  We are so grateful for another year of this adventure.

* photos courtesy of Lisa Holloway Photography

Saturday, December 24, 2016

What the FOUR?!

Disclaimer: I wrote this several months ago and never got around to publishing it.  Giving it a quick reread it's mostly still accurate except they've gained a lot of skills this school year!

You should see my list of things to blog about.  It is so good.  And it goes back about 6 months.  And I'm not sure I will ever get around to writing those things and might lose these last 6 months in the memory bank.  But back to the present!  The kiddos are 4!  4 YEARS OLD!!!  It's the blessed age I've been told where everything gets a bit easier and nicer and I can take a deep breath. Ahhhh.

Well, I can see us getting there, but we're not there yet.  The imaginative play is in full force, I don't have to entertain at all times, independence is increasing rapidly, and the personalities are like whoa.  But they are needy, whiney, and in plenty of fights with each other, so Mommy is still very much a presence in the all the time.

Let's get on to the good stuff.  4 year update...

Andrew Noah

He's so friendly and polite.  And TALL!  "Andrew you're so handsome" "No, I tall" He's learned it's his identifier.  Generally willing to help out, will eat most things, loves to please and receive praise, gives hugs all the time, has a goofy fake laugh when he thinks others think he's funny, loves cars and trucks, likes copying Mommy and Daddy, loves to run wild with his brothers, knows his letters and ABCs and can count to 20, sensitive, easily scared of things he sees on TV (but still loves TV), really enjoys pretending to be different characters.  Lately his favorite is Spiderman.  There's often the psshh... sound of the webs leaving his wrists happening at our house.  But sometimes Batman prevails too.

Benjamin Luke

This kid!  He's something else.  "Benny Boy" as he calls himself as he speaks in third person half the time.  "Benny Boy does not like that very well".  His constant commentary of all things going on all the time charms people somehow.  He's got the best frown in town.  When he's really pouting it's the full frown with a fake tear wipe.  Ben is very particular about what he wants and even what words you use.  Currently he will only wear long sleeve shirts, shorts, and sandals.  Don't call them shoes, because they're sandals.  He avoids cleaning up like the plague.  And most things that involve him doing any sort of work.  He loves to build with Legos, draw, give hugs and kisses to me, order everyone around, jump and run, play cars, ride the balance bike, and be naked.

Caroline Grace

Recently when asked to describe Caroline I said, "she's complicated."  She can be sweet, helpful, silly, talkative, playful or a screaming irrational terror who cries for no real reason and needs lots of moments to calm down.  Depends on the day or her mood or how tired or hungry or hangry she is.  Caroline is the lover of all things pink.  Especially Paw Patrol.  Pink Paw Patrol with Skye AND Everest.  "That's my favorite."  She's the pickiest eater.  Yogurt and cereal, peanut butter and jelly, cheese, sometimes blueberries, and pepperoni pizza.  That about sums up her diet.  Oh, I forgot ketchup.  Totally a food group.  She's great at imaginary play with stuffed animals and dolls and figurines.  She's got epic stories going on.  Can still hang with the boys in the rough and tumble play too.  LOVES to swim!  Like if she had the option not sure I'd ever get her out of the water.  She surprised me with VBS- she loves to sing and dance to all the songs.  And don't you mess up her jam- she'll correct you and you have to start over.  This girl loves her mommy and her daddy and her teachers.  And she still jumps up and down when she's excited.

Leah Michelle

This little miss has had a rough 2016 thus far.  In and out of the hospital dealing with things new to all of us and trying to find solutions.  But she's a trooper and a fighter.  She's continued to work hard in school and therapy and all these little setbacks haven't slowed her down much.  She never regressed and has continued to show slow and steady progress.  That's kinda amazing y'all!  She's growing like a weed too.  I mean, has grown 7 in and gained 8 lbs in a few months.  Prior to this year we were happy if she'd grown any tiny amount.  This girl LOVES music.  It's her happy language.  Favorite songs are Uptown Funk, Shut Up and Dance, Sorry, ABCs, Old McDonald, If you're happy and you know it, Jesus Loves Me, , and anything Laurie Berkner.  She loves being cuddled, being in the water, cause and effect toys, and kisses!

Allison Kate

Still the tiniest but not afraid to tell it like it is!  She is usually shy around new people, but that quickly fades.  She is ever my rule follower to the max and keeps everyone in line.  She is quick to tell me when anyone has done something wrong.  She remembers EVERYTHING!  And I mean EVERYTHING!  From what anyone says to what they did to things that happened 2 years ago and I'm like, "uhhh how do you even remember that?!"  (I can hardly remember yesterday)  She is the one I find out what I often say and do by what she starts imitating.  Allison loves to dance and spin around the house.  She loves to be a helper.  She enjoys books, dolls and my little ponies, and any kind of art supplies.

Levi Thomas

My quirky little monkey man!  He is silly as silly can be and loves it.  He's got the goofiest dance moves around and isn't afraid to show them off.  He still loves guitars and music and picks up any song lyrics or learning through songs.  Levi is very inquisitive; he asks about a million questions a day about what things are, how they work, and why they are that way.  Sometimes I know the answers ;) He also still enjoys lights and doors.  I say if you find some random lights turned on or doors locked- Levi's been there.  He's really enjoyed water this year- from swimming lessons to belly flops to running in sprinklers to shooting water guns.  He's all about it!  He and Andrew are the best eaters.  Levi's not afraid to try new foods and isn't picky at all.  He can put down a lot for such a tiny body!  Levi is very independent and will do most things on his own.  He still has a quick temper and would rather scream or whine than use words.  If he ever naps it's usually in the middle of the floor somewhere- he literally crashes in the middle of playing.  Levi is quite affectionate often giving me hugs and saying "I love you Mama"

There you have it.  An overview of my 4 year olds.  Now that we're actually closer to 4 1/2 I am seeing a big difference compared to 3.  Mostly in the independence level of these guys and their ability to play together along with using imagination.  It's so fun to watch!  I'm collecting endless amounts of hilarious quotes.  They are generally adaptable, love being around people, being busy, going places, and are well behaved most of the time in public :)  One of my favorite things they currently do is refer to each other as "friends".  Like instead of saying "brothers and/or sisters" they say "My friends".
All photos in this post courtesy of Lisa Holloway Photography

Friday, January 1, 2016

Pagosa 2015

I'm back at it again!  Catching up the ole blog.  Really I just need a better system of photo dumping which would motivate me to get posts up quicker.  And setting time to actually write my list of posts I want to write.  But, unfortunately for blog readers, this generally falls at the end of the to do list. Maybe in 2016 I'll do better.  Maybe.

Anywho, back to the topic at hand- PAGOSA TRIP 2015!  Our favorite time of the summer.  This year we didn't go until late summer as my parents were busy with their own travels (How dare they?!)   but we made the most of it.  Stuck to our usual plan of leaving dark and early at 4am for the long haul.  I feel we've got this down to a T; we know where all the good stop and play spots are, what the best food to pack is, how to cram everything in the van, and how are kids are best entertained.  This trip was by far the best we've had.  We did decide to forego potty training and leave them in pull ups for the car travel time.  This did lead to some regression at my parents house and after we returned home, but was so worth it along the 17-18 hour drive.  This time I also didn't bother with car toys.  They are perfectly happy listening to music, looking out the window, and eating a million and a half snacks.  Isn't that what road tripping is all about?!  Truly I was so thankful we didn't have to deal with any mega tantrums during the drive.

Enough about the drive!  We had so much fun while we were there!  The kids slept in one room, on the floor, in their own sleeping bags. They thought they were so cool "camping" like the Bubble Guppies.  They actually did sleep too!  Not without some good play time in their room though.  Leah slept in the room with Dave and I as usual.

At this point I don't remember the order in which we did which activities, but we fit in plenty.  The weather was wonderful, especially compared to the unbearable humidity and heat of Houston in late July.  We spent lots of time at parks and playing in the yard.  Picnics were a regular occurrence too.

Gammy and Pop's yard is even big enough to explore!  They also enjoyed "swimming" in the hot tub- once they got used to it being extra warm and having bubbles.

We were brave and took them around town a bit- sno cones, library story time, and a Mexican restaurant.  They did really well, and, of course, loved eating sno cones and chips and dip.

I big milestone was the first hike for the kiddos!  They exceeded our e
xpectations.  We specifically picked a very easy trail to a popular tourist stop and planned to stop about half way when the waterfall is first visible.  But they went the entire mile and a half round trip hike!  Up hill, rocks and roots, back down hill... I was impressed.

Speaking of hiking, the adults had to get some in too.  Dave and I had a lovely day date hiking a new-to-us trail with beautiful scenery and went out to lunch afterwards.  My mom and I also had a day to hike and have lunch.  Dave and my dad did a lot of fly fishing too, so we all got breaks from kid duty :)

What might turn into an annual tradition- we ended the trip with a picnic and play time at Williams Reservoir.  They LOVE to throw rocks in the water.  This may be a future camping spot too.

All in all a great trip!  Already looking forward to next summer when we'll go back.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Orange Beach

The focus on swimming lessons was mainly for our family beach vacation to Orange Beach!  Happened back in June.  And by family I mean our pack of 8, plus all grandparents, plus my brother and his family, plus one of Dave's brothers.  Whew!  Even with the crowd, we all had a blast!  The kids enjoyed the beach and the pool and did well the whole trip- even in the car and sleeping all together in regular beds.  Pretty sure at least one kid fell off the bed each night, but it didn't phase them, and I loved not messing with pack n plays!  

Boys all snuggled up in the big bed
With so many adults there we were able to accommodate all the kids easily on the beach- from holding them in the water to building sandcastles- we had it all covered.  We spent most mornings down on the beach then switched to the pool for the afternoon (I only clean up sand once a day).  They LOVED the big water slide and lazy river.  Hours of fun.  
My beach baby/water baby/part fish

Chillaxin to the Max

Andrew completely asleep on the beach

Leah and I swimming in the indoor pool
The adult children even got some kid free hangout time one night for ice cream and shopping :)  Besides that we had fun hunting for crabs at night, watching movies, and pigging out.  

Movie Time!

Allison and Andrew hanging out on the balcony 
One special event was meeting up with a family of quints we've only known through our online parent support group.  So fun meeting in person and seeing what life will be like in 17 years!  They were so nice and great with the kiddos.  

Really the only issue was Caroline throwing huge fits every time we made her leave the water, but, hey, I'm used to that business.  I can pinpoint the Caroline wail a mile away.  Now on to the next trip.

The van packed FULL on the way home- awful pic, but best I could get

Saturday, September 5, 2015

New Adventures

Doing activities and outings has gotten simpler over the last few months.  So, needless to say, we've been doing a lot!

Our annual appearance in West Columbia's San Jacinto Day parade was rained out, so we rallied with our own parade around the neighborhood.  All you need is a decorated wagon, some themed outfits, and candy (we may have just eaten it ourselves).  People did stop and ask what we were doing, so the idea worked, right?

They've been out for ice cream cones (so so so messy), a few select restaurants, and the zoo (with actual interest in the animals).   Even a few simple outings on my own- and we all survived!

One outing I'd been thinking about for a loooong time was the first Kids 1K race.  To "train", we started with walking around the block and learning to stay together and listen, then tried to make it without stopping to throw a fit or rest or anything.  Come actual race day, they were awful.  Threw fits at the beginning and we ended up cutting the course and still coming in last.  But they did enjoy the popsicles at the end, extra snacks, and playing on the playground while I raced.

Can't forget the strawberry picking outing that ended with a trip to the ER; we learned Caroline is allergic to fire ants.  She kept fussing while we were in the fields and I thought she was just being her charming self.  After carrying her around a bit I looked over and she was covered in hives!  Thankfully I wasn't alone and we rushed to the nearest ER; they took great care of her and were so accommodating with the rest of us.   Watching out for ants from now on!  And I guess Caroline is wanting to keep me on my toes because at the last dentist visit she had an infected abscessed tooth that had to be pulled.  She handled it like a champ!  She's pretty darn cute with her missing front tooth too, if I do say so myself.  

They started swim lessons back in May.  The first lesson was a DISASTER.  Could not have gone any worse.  Threw fits about getting in the water, then after fighting them for 25 minutes, they decide it's fun for the last 5 minutes.  Then repeat the fits x5 to get out of the water- add in some running away from me, me getting in the water fully clothed to fish them out... you get the picture.  Their teacher was very nice and let us try a couple more times to see if it got any better before banning us from her home.  Luckily- it did!  They LOVE swimming and their lessons now and they're really catching on- especially the girls.  They were even jumping off the low diving board last lesson.  

First lesson- trying to escape

Who knows what will be next?!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Transitions and Milestones

Since turning three, the cribs are gone.  The pen is gone.  Little potties are here.  MILESTONES!  

The first big transition was switching from cribs to toddler beds about a month before the 3rd birthday.  Difference between girls and boys: once in toddler beds the girls go to bed with no issue and stay there all night and the boys party it up until they crash.  From kicking the walls, breaking a bed (too much jumping), pinning Ben under a mattress, locking Ben in the closet, climbing anything they can, emptying clothes bins all over the floor, to conspiring on how to get out of the room (it's childproofed locked from the inside), I never know what I'll find when I go in their room.  Over time, it's gotten slightly better, but the "frat parties" continue.  Also, the new thing is, when the girls wake up (always before the boys) they'll go in the boys room to get them up too.  Not cool girls.  Not cool.
One time after nap they walked out like this.  They were fully clothed when I put them to nap.

Sweet sisters can share toddler beds if they want to

The freedom of no pen transition was much smoother and I like having my living room back!  At first they weren't sure what to do with the open space, but got over that real quick.  Dance parties, ring around the rosie, chase, obstacle courses, car race tracks have all filled up that space at one time or another.  

On the other hand, potty training is the WORST.  I'll repeat that one- WORST.  Sometime I feel like the whole house smells like pee.  We started training all 5 at once and after a week I was at my wit's end.  Put Leaky Levi (he earned that one) back in diapers.  Fortunately Caroline, Andrew, and Ben started catching on and their pretty good now.  Still random accidents, but not bad.  Allison is some sort of camel child and doesn't go.  So, she can pull off that she's trained, but she's really not.  We restarted Levi a few weeks ago and miraculously he caught on quickly and is at the same level as the others.  Since none of the traditional training methods were really going to be feasible for me, I made up my own.  Started out rewarding for dry pants every few minutes and expanding to every 30 minutes and they got bigger rewards for using the potty.  Once they got the hang of dryness, only going potty was rewarded.  The week I restarted Levi I had sticker charts for everyone hoping to stir up some friendly sibling competition.  They really took to those quickly and it helped Levi a great deal, but poor camel Allison only had 1 sticker while everyone else had completed theirs.  Still works in progress, but we're heading in the right direction.  And on a positive note, we haven't had any poop paintings in quite some time and the boys have learned to "point it down".  As one of my boys has said, "Mommy, don't hold down my penis!" You can't make this stuff up.