Monday, July 21, 2014

Perkins Pack in Pagosa

WE DID IT!  2 adults, 6 toddlers, 18 hours in the car (each way), and a week at Gammy and Pop's house in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

A few weeks ago Dave and I decided we did not want to miss out on our annual summer trip to Pagosa.  We knew we'd be fine once we got there since we could stay with my parents and that'd be 4 adults around all the time.  We just had to survive the 2 travel days (yes, we drive 18 hours in one day). So, there was the goal.  Just live through the travel days.

Much like last year, my mom really helped us out before we even got there.  She was able to borrow 6 pack n plays and quite a few toys and books.  She also bought 2 plastic toddler sized tables so I didn't have to bring booster seats.  All of this saved us TONS of space in the van which was essential as it was completely crammed with stuff anyways.  I followed all of my tips I wrote about on Houston Mom's Blog and glad I did!

This year I was so excited that the kids are 2 and officially old enough to take motion sickness medicine.  As we learned last year Caroline has a tendency to get car sick.  So as we pulled away from our home at 4:45 am with 6 groggy kids, I decided to just see how it went before giving out the Dramamine.  BAD idea.  It started about 7:30 am with Andrew and the tell-tale sound of vomit.  This is about the same time they all started throwing off their bibs I planned to use as vomit catchers.  A few minutes after Andrew, Caroline joined in on the fun.  Then it was Leah.  Then Allison.  And Caroline and Andrew decided once just wasn't quite enough.  In the mean time I was busy administering medicine and cleaning up.  Then it hit me in the middle of bouncing between rows.  As I grabbed the closest plastic bag (I travel with PLENTY), Dave looks in the rear view with a slight panic and says, "I'm pulling over!  We need a break!"  All by 8 am.  NOT a good start.  Turns out a little break was just what we needed.  Cleaned everyone up, medicine kicked in, we were good to go.  After that things went much more smoothly.  The kids were not interested in the toys I brought, but were entertained with music and a few interjected books and songs performed by yours truly.  Oh, and the snacks.  I pre-made all of the travel meals and snacks so we wouldn't have to stop for food.  This worked out great!  And nothing was very messy, unless you are Allison Perkins who can turn anything into a mess.  This time around we had Eggos, grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, apple slices, pretzel sticks, cheerios, raisins, chewy granola bars, and mini marshmallows.  And my personal secret candy stash to use as needed.  Throughout the entire day of driving we only made 2 big stops where we let the kids out to walk around (about 5 min each, 2 kids at a time) and change diapers.  They hated being put back in the car seats, but we had no time to waste!  Honestly once the vomiting was under control, the rest of the 1st travel day wasn't too bad.

As we were driving, Dave and I questioned whether it was worth it.  As soon as we arrived at the house, we knew it was.  The kids had a BLAST!!!  They immediately dug into all of the toys and ran around squealing (I'm sure it had nothing to do with freedom from the car seat).  We let them play for awhile then did a much needed pajama change (they travel in pajamas) and off to bed.  The 5 were in one room and Leah stayed with Dave and I.  They all slept so well the entire trip- even naps!  I really think they were just that worn out from being so busy the whole time.  The kids truly enjoyed being at the house.  From the basement to the deck to the driveway to the living room- they ran around everywhere.  It was so nice to let them play outside and not worry about heat strokes!  They did everything from sidewalk chalk to coloring to inflatable pool to library time to playing at a local park to throwing rocks and having a picnic on a lake.  They handled transitions well and had so. much. fun. the entire time.

Driveway drawing

Library Toddler Time

throwing rocks in William's Lake


Picnic at the lake

Eating at Gammy and Pop's

Running around the deck
Dave and I also had a wonderful time and were sad to leave.  We LOVE it there!  What was nice about staying with my parents is that we all got a break away from the kids at some point.  One morning my mom and I went on a hike to a gorgeous lake.  The next day Dave and my dad went fly fishing; they were supposed to catch our dinner, but came up very very short ;)  As an early anniversary (7 years!) date, Dave and I were able to hike to the top of Table Mountain to soak in 360 views and later that evening go out to dinner just the two of us.  A rare treat indeed!

Dave on top of Table Mountain

Dave's big catch

Beautiful Crater Lake- where my mom and I hiked
The drive home was a tad quicker at 17.5 hours, but much less fun.  One reason is that we were headed back home to work, to-do lists, and mountains of laundry.  Another reason is that 3 of the kids were SO. WHINY.  Here were the positives I could think up: it's only 3 of them being whiny instead of all 6, they were only whiny from noon-8:30pm not the entire trip, and snacks quieted them down for a very short time.  Needless to say, they ate a ridiculous amount of snacks that day.  My entertaining skills worked a bit, as did pointing out trains and trucks and playing cds.  However, a few times I did have to hide in the back row where the whiners couldn't see me.  You do what you gotta do people.  We were very glad to pull into our driveway and put those kiddos straight in their cribs!

Are we there yet?

To wrap up, we had a wonderful trip!  We cannot wait to go back next year and every year after that.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Life as 2-year-olds

Since the last update we've been more low key, but that also means I've been awful about taking pictures and videos!  Regardless of our low keyness, they are busy little people these days! They're into everything, climbing (or trying to), opening drawers, pushing buttons (literally and figuratively), and making big messes with toys and food.  Even though they can really test my patience with the whining and disobeying, it's still fun... most of the time.  They're learning more and more each day to communicate, participate in games and songs, and be aware of each other.  Even with Leah- Caroline, Allison, and Andrew will go "check on Leah" by patting her and when she vomits they'll hand us rags to clean it up.  Every now and then they'll bring her one of her toys- just warms my heart.  

One interesting observation (to me) is that despite a mix of toys throughout the house and no push towards any particular toy or cartoon character, the girls are more interested in girly stuff and the boys are more interested in the boy stereotyped toys.  The girls will also sit for nail cutting and hair fixing while the boys give me a wrestling style workout.  

Ben was curious about the girls' tutus... not a fan.
Andrew's the tallest and can climb on all the furniture, reach stuff off the counter, and has about figured out how to open doors.  He and Caroline love to play hide and seek and feed each other at the table.  Andrew continues to steal everyone's toys and be in time out the most, but he also loves to give hugs- Ben is a great hugger too.  Caroline continues to have her regular meltdowns and frequently doesn't make it through lunch without being put to nap early.  BUT she has begun to say all done at lunch instead of throwing everything- such a better indicator of nap readiness!  Ben has taken up singing lately (mostly series of ohs and doos), but Levi will not be outdone in the music category- he's started singing "e i e i o" (emphasis on the oooo).  Allison loves to be a helper and even throws away dirty diapers now :)  She also knows her colors.  

They're all into marching, trying to jump, and guiding adults around by the finger.  They love being chased and running after each other.  One way I like to include Leah is by pushing her around to chase the others, sometimes they'll "help" push her too.  They all love coloring right now and on rainy days I've been laying sheets of paper on the floor for lasting entertainment.  We have had a few incidents of crayons on non-paper surfaces, but nothing too drastic yet.  Caroline and Andrew are big into building with Stackadoos, but they all enjoy it.

Rainy day coloring

They're all crazy for raisins!  I require them to sit quietly on the floor to get a raisin or two, and several times a day you will see 5 toddlers sitting on the kitchen floor waiting for raisins.  We've all been enjoying water activities lately.  They love playing in our backyard inflatable pool, and after some initial cautiousness, they're loving the neighborhood splash pad too.

All trying to "Get Daddy!"

The end of May was full of doctor appointments.  All the kiddos went to the dentist and had great checkups.  They really love brushing their teeth and were even pushing each other to get to the exam room first!  Leah sees most of her specialists every 6 months, so we were due to make the rounds.  As I like to say, you know you're going to TCH too much when the valet people know who you are.  She's been putting weight back on well and has been making steady progress all around.  We met with her new neurologist and he had actually reviewed her records and imaging before the appointment.  He was very pleased with her progress.  He also said based on her history and brain images that she is amazing and must be happy and hard working. It was nice to hear, even if I already knew all that :)

Below are a few videos for your enjoyment.  Apparently Caroline has been hanging around me lately as she's in every video!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Outings

As our day-to-day life has been slightly less hectic lately, we've had time to get out and about!  They have generally done well during our outings.  Granted I don't go anywhere without extra adult support, but the number of adults I need has decreased.  And of course we do have issues, but nothing I don't expect from a bunch of 2-year-olds- scattering, wandering, tiny tantrums and the like.  We have been practicing with our walking rope with our goal being to do outings all walking together with no scattering and wandering.  Definitely a work in progress.  However, it's worth the effort to watch them experience new things- whether they squeal with excitement or cry in protest.  We live and we learn!

Crocodile Encounter
We went to a neighbor's 5th birthday party at Crocodile Encounter in Angleton, TX.  Who knew there was an alligator farm so close to home??  It was actually a really neat place and very safe.  The only animals you could possibly come in contact with were the giant tortoises, but that was intentional- we got to run around with them and Caroline was brave enough to feed them!  Definitely all of our favorite part.  They were somewhat interested in the alligators.  They followed along the tour fairly well and we only had to recruit 2 other adults to help us corral them.  We didn't make it through the entire tour- had to cut it short for a snack and trip home for a nap.  Had to beat the toddler crankiness!

Caroline feeding the tortoise 

Checking out the alligators


Block Party
The same day as the birthday party our neighborhood section had its annual block party.  It is super rare that we take on two outings in one day, but I decided to go for it.  Mainly because the block party was just down the street and the kids' best friend was going too.  The kids had fun running around, getting in the kiddie pool (fully clothed), and begging for food.  The boys also had great fun pushing the limits on how far they could wander off.  Andrew was even caught knocking on front doors with the best friend!  We headed home for bed time and those kids were wiped out after a full day of parties.

Water Fun
What's summer without water activities- especially when it's miserably hot?!  We've wasted no time getting the kids used to water.  Every weekend we bust out the inflatable pool in the backyard- it's big enough for all 8 of us and even has a slide.  Leah loves to float and relax in the water, and the others love to splash and slide.  We all have a blast every afternoon we spend in our little pool!

But sometimes we need a change of scenery.  Luckily the neighborhood's splash pad and one of the big pools is just a short wagon ride away from our house.  I'm definitely not comfortable going either place without extra adult support, but fortunately I have been able to convince people to tag along :)  Caroline is shaping up to be my water baby- she loves it and doesn't show any fear.  Ben tends to have more fun running around than being in the water.  Alli, Andrew, and Levi go in and out.  Leah loves the pools, but not the splash pad- sudden sprays of water startle her.

Animal Fun
I was so proud of Dave and I after we completed our first outing as a family of 8 with NO help!  No one tagging along or meeting us there or waiting to hear from us if we got into trouble.  Just taking the kids to the zoo with a picnic lunch afterwards.  The only way we made it through the outing was the stroller.  The kids were fine sitting in it while we strolled the zoo and ate lunch.  We got the typical amount of attention and questions.  The biggest difference this time was that the kids were actually interested in the larger animals- especially the elephants and monkeys.

Our county's ECI chapter puts on several fundraising family fun events each year.  We recently attended our first one- Barn Bash!  It included pony rides, train rides, hay rides, bounce house, face paint, balloon animals, auctions, a fun band, and of course a dinner!  The kids did all the rides and each one received mixed reviews.  Pony rides took some getting used to (Caroline threw a fit and missed out on this one), train rides were ok until they couldn't see me anymore, and everyone was fine with the hay ride- even Leah got to ride that one :)  Of course everyone's favorite was the dinner!  They did fantastic at sitting at the table eating from their own plate.  I brought along some kitchen shears for cutting food and their usual straw cups to reduce spilling.  Once they had cleaned their plates, we headed back home.

Alli on the big horse

Biker Ben

Ready for the train ride

Get us off this thing!



Monday, June 2, 2014

Houston Dad's Blog!

For the first part of June, the Dads have taken over Houston Mom's Blog!  We gave them free reign to write about whatever they wanted.  Dave was chosen to kick off the series!  I am so proud of him for not only participating, but writing a truly amazing post about being a father.

Check it out HERE!!  It's really a must-read!  And I'm not biased or anything ;)

Monday, May 26, 2014

We are 2!

At 2 years old these 6 kiddos are full of energy!  They are on the go all day long between sliding, push toys, puzzles, blocks, Mickey Mouse, books, coloring, bubbles, running outside, looking for ducks/airplanes/dogs on our walks, and eating constantly.  Lucky for me they take a glorious 3 hour nap in the middle of the day (sleep training = da bomb).  They also go to bed at 7:30pm and wake up at 7:00am.

They have 5 scheduled eating times- breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner.  I have started to become slightly less rigid in the snacks as they're learning to communicate.  If we're out somewhere they'll often skip a snack because they're too busy.  When it's snack time at home and someone says they don't want it right then they can continue to play.  When they ask for food or drink in between meals, I'll give them their water and a few raisins to hold them over.  By the way, they are all obsessed with raisins right now!  I have trained them to sit down on the floor if they want to eat raisins, so it's a common sight in my kitchen to see 5 little people sitting in a huddle on the floor for raisins.  I've also trained them to bring me their cups when they're done instead of dropping them around the house.  Their favorite foods right now are pancakes, egg casserole, eggos, muffins, quesadillas, PBJ, sweet potatoes, parmesan tilapia, hot dog, avocado, pasta, anything mexican, beans, pizza, raisins, bananas, grapes, blueberries, yogurt, oatmeal, cheerios, crackers, and of course anything sweet I allow them to have.

Some things they all enjoy right now... playing outside, bubbles, water tables, our mini roller coasters, sandbox, freely running about, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Blue's Clues, Bubble Guppies, Elmo, music/singing/dancing, toy vacuums/mowers/strollers, play food and kitchen, blocks, sliding, puzzles, books, going to our neighbor friend's house, "hiding" and "seeking", pretending to give you something then quickly pulling away, coloring, and playing chase.

Now let's break it down.

Andrew Noah

27 lb 15 oz   34 in
size 2T clothes, size 5 diapers, size 6 shoe

Andrew is by far the tallest and can open drawers, reach the edge of the counters, and tries to open doors.  He still loves trucks, planes, and cars.  He's great at puzzles and shape sorters and building.  He loves running around outside, throwing sand, splashing water, and looking for planes.  He's been surprising me with more new words lately- usually labeling food.  He's recently gotten into "hiding" (squatting behind stuff) and pretending to share or give hugs then backing away laughing.  He really enjoys brushing his teeth and started the trend of the boys holding their own toothbrushes the entire bath time.  He also loves to squeal obnoxiously loud and high pitched when he's excited.  He is still the bully of the group, often snatching toys from others, and he is the time out mat's frequent flyer.  Andrew not only looks like his Daddy, but he also loves to lounge like his Daddy.  Now he even climbs in the big chairs to rest alone or read books.


Benjamin Luke

27 lb 12 oz 32 in
size 2T clothes, size 5 diapers, size 5-5.5 shoe

Ben is constantly on the go.  He loves to run- be it in the hallway, in the backyard, or around the kitchen island.  Often he's going so fast he gets clumsy; last week he had 2 black eyes and a gash down his face from falling 3 separate times.  Today he earned a goose egg and bloody nose.  Ben loves books, listening to stories, and swaying back and forth to music.  He's a great thrower.  Fortunately for me, as much as he likes to throw he also enjoys helping pick up.  He's the best one at stacking.  He still makes tons of silly faces and sounds; as of late he's started singing in "doh's" and "oh's"- so cute/hilarious at the same time!  Ben continues to savor his last bite of food.  He has recently gotten into dressing up with shoes and bracelets.  


Caroline Grace

23 lb 12 oz  32.5 in 
size 2T clothes, size 4/5 diapers, size 4.5-5 shoe

Moody and temperamental: words recently used by a friend to describe this girl.  Just like Lauren: what my dad always says about her.  But I turned out ok right?  When someone new is around she is sweet as pie and just as shy.  Tired and hungry she is a terror.  Her cry is deafening- but does make Leah smile.  But I have learned that giving her a minute in time out to calm down does wonders for her.  She loves books and being read to- especially books about numbers, colors, and letters.  She receptively knows every.single. item. in her favorite books.  She picks up on motions to songs and on TV shows right away and remembers them.  She's a good helper when she wants to be and is still a Mommy's girl.  She can be pretty silly too and loves dogs so much it's hard for her to contain her excitement.  She loves to color and build blocks, often clapping for herself for a job well done.  She's definitely my water baby- bathtub, pool, splash pad- can't get her out.  If she's hiding behind a curtain she's probably pooping.  


Leah Michelle

17 lb 12.5 oz   29 in
size 12-18 mo clothes, size 4 diaper, size 4 shoe

She's lost several pounds in the last few months so her GI and dietitian have put her on a higher calorie food to get her weight up.  So far, so good.  We think the loss is due to the decrease in amount of food given with an increase in activity level.  Leah has really been doing well lately (besides the weight thing).  Her vomiting is generally in the evening only with some mucousy coughs in the morning.  She's done weight bearing standing for up to 30 seconds and does more through her arms too.  She's eaten a full teaspoon of several foods and is becoming quite tolerant of having food put in her mouth.  She's reaching and grasping with both hands and trying so hard to completely roll over.  She still loves singing and counting and VeggieTales.  She is generally very happy and always wins best behavior when we're in public.  


Allison Kate

18 lb 2 oz   30.5 in
size 12-18 mo clothes, size 4 diaper, size 4 shoe

She's now the official failure to thrive one.  It's so strange to me how they all eat about the same amount of food yet there's a vast difference in weight.  So, I'll be giving her some Boost or Pediasure to pump up her calories.  She's currently a raisin lover and asks for them all.day.long.  She's typically a good helper too (anything to be praised) and is still a tattle tale with her "uh-oh" patrol.  For whatever reason this girl refuses to express words on command.  She knows everything receptively, but will only mouth words and sign them when asked.  I have caught her saying words on her own while playing.  She loves her great grandmother and the feeling is mutual (we're talking super spoiled here).  She's the girly girl of the bunch liking her shoes and accessories and being cute.  She still enjoys coloring and books and being carried around.  She's turned into the cautious scaredy cat of the group- whether it's new people or a new toy.  Her latest thing is grabbing a single finger and pulling adults around.  


Levi Thomas

21 lb 3 oz   30 in
size 12-18 mo clothes, size 4 diaper, size 4 shoe

Levi is happy as long as he has his guitar or his vacuum or his swiffer mop.  He even earned himself a busted lip and bloody nose chasing after the real vacuum.  He spends at least 30 minutes a day watching himself play guitar in the oven reflection or window or mirror or anything reflective.  He loves to fling himself on you for a hug and smile with his super cute little teeth.  And laugh.  And make silly faces.  He's starting to get more patience for things like books, puzzles, and coloring.  The others can sit and do those activities for 30 minutes or so.  Lately he's been the best eater- slow and steady.  He's busted out quite a few new words recently.  He loves to run around outside with his elbow pumping and play in the water or chase bubbles.  He's got some moves too! He watches over his favorite toys to keep them away from Andrew (usual thief).  As a neighbor friend often says, "there's a lot of might in that little body".



And there you have it... The Perkins Pack at 2 years old!  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Birthday Celebrations!

The Pack's real birthday fell on a Wednesday.  With Dave at work and Leah busy with therapies, there wasn't too much hoopla going on that day.  They did get yummy cinnamon rolls (Allison ate so many she threw up) for breakfast and some very special chocolate covered Oreos for dessert!  The Oreos came from a baker in New Jersey (Sweet Temptations) who saw me on LIVE with Kelly and Michael; she sent them just for their birthday.  I ate Leah's on her behalf and it was amazing!  They also received a few gifts from family on their actual birthday which I missed in pictures.  But what I did get in pictures is each kid with me just like on their 1st birthday (to be shown in next post).  I'm thinking it could be an annual tradition :)

Andrew, Caroline, Ben eating Oreos

Levi and Allison eating Oreos

Leah posing with her Oreo
The big birthday party was the following Saturday.  Although we cut the guest list in half from last year, it was still a pretty big party.  My goal was to tone it down a bit from last year and I feel we achieved just that.  What helped the most was whenever anyone offered to help with the party I gave them a job.  By the end of it, I didn't have to do very much :)  Everyone pulled through with their parts for a very successful party!

We found a great location at a close-by neighborhood's rec center.  The building was the perfect size and had access to playgrounds, splash pads, open field, and sand volleyball!  I loved that I didn't have to plan any activities during the party.  The theme was A Very Hungry Caterpillar and it turned out really cute!!  There were caterpillars everywhere thanks to my BFF from college's sister.  She made 95% of the decorations and did a phenomenal job!  A fellow high order multiples mom (she has quads and they were next door to us in the NICU) made their birthday shirts.  I sent her a picture of what I liked and she replicated it perfectly!  (Check out her Etsy shop here)  All the food served corresponded with what the caterpillar ate throughout the story, and  the favors were bags of M&Ms labelled "Caterpillar Food".   Everyone had a good time, especially the kids.  They were worn out from running around chasing bubbles in the field.  OH, and they ate a ton of cookies!

Cake Table

A Very Hungry Caterpillar in Pictures


Each kid had their own caterpillar with pictures of themselves throughout the last year

Caroline 

Dave and Levi

Allison and Andrew sneaking cookies

Time to eat!

Leah slept through most of the party.  I was forced to eat her cupcake.

Wanna bite?

Look who woke up just in time to go home!

Ben was loving my grandmother's hat

Presents!
I'm always told "the days are long, but the years are short".  No kidding!  I can't believe how quickly time flew between the 1st and 2nd birthdays.  I know it's not going to slow down either.  I will say I am loving my little toddlers.  It is a blast watching them learn and discover new things.  Yes, there are rough times and testing limits, but I'm thinking so far I like this stage way more than baby stage.  We'll see what I think in a year :)


Saturday, May 24, 2014

2-year-old Photo Shoot

Since we hadn't taken real professional photos of the kids and family since their 1st birthday, I decided the 2nd birthday would be worth the effort.  As luck would have it, my talented neighbor friend Lisa Holloway offered to do the shoot for us!  She picked a great location at a local park.  We attempted the group shots first before they completely lost interest.  We plopped them in their chairs, handed out blocks and cookies, ran out of view, and Lisa snapped and clicked as fast as the camera could go!  Somehow we ended up with some great shots!
Ben, Leah, Levi, Alli, Andrew, Caroline

Alli, Levi, Leah, Ben, Caroline, Andrew


Best Family Shot

Best Family Outtake

Dave and Andrew
Next up were the individual shots.  I stayed with each kiddo to entertain them as she tried to take their picture while the other adults chased around the rest of the kids.  After the outfit change, Lisa chased after the kids with her camera.  One time she just grabbed an arm and clicked away when they looked at her!

Andrew

Allison

Caroline

Leah

Benjamin

Levi

Benjamin

Serious Leah

Allison

Happy Leah

Giggly Girl Alli

Caroline

I want a cookie! 

Thanks- Levi

Andrew
I am just in love with the pictures!  There are so many good ones it's hard to pick my favorites (obviously).  And we had a blast at the shoot!  If you're in the Houston area, please check out Lisa for your photography needs- if she can handle our crew, she can do any family!