{Tyke Bites} Breakfast Quesadillas, Eggplant Pizza & More!

Searching for fresh ideas to feed your toddler? Then take a gander at this week's installation in my Tyke Bite series, featuring a random day of meals (and yummy thrills, ha) for my hungry little quad squad...

Breakfast was a new one for us: peanut butter, banana and chocolate chip quesadillas. May not sound like the most appetizing thing, but it was pretty tasty! Easy to make with lots of protein via the PB (or you can also use nut butter or Nutella). The kiddos approved it and I even ate a couple small slices for myself.

For lunch, I served a simple staple of turkey lunch meat, fruit, pickles, pretzels, cheese, mini muffins and veggie sticks, but just changed the presentation. Ice cub trays! At first, the quads seemed a little puzzled. But I haven't seen them so focused or entertained by a meal as they were by this one in awhile. They really seemed to enjoy hunting for the next food of choice in their tray, so we'll definitely be redoing this one!

Mmm mmm. Dinner was a Julia Child recipe I pinned from Kalyn's Kitchen a couple weeks ago: eggplant pizzas. The husband loved it and the kids actually ate a couple bites each, they just didn't seem to care for the skin of the eggplant since it's a slightly odd chewing texture. I rounded out their meal with fruit, Ritz crackers and cheese sticks. The husband and I enjoyed our aubergine pizzas with Caesar salads.

My Tot Food board on Pinterest is slowly growing with more fun ideas—including plenty I've yet to try, like this Funfetti Cake Batter Smoothie!—and I pin my Tyke Bites posts there as well if you'd like to save them for yourself. Eat and enjoy!
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{Littles Learning} Wheels on the Bus Book & Craft

This was my second book & craft combo I tackled with the quads and it was pretty straight forward and easy to accomplish. They love The Wheels on the Bus song so I figured we'd use the book—in which the text is the same as the song, anyway—an easy construction paper craft and anything else I could come up with. That turned out to be toy buys and a few yellow bus kid-friendly YouTube vidoes.

We started off with a couple videos online that had to do with buses, a few were animated and focused on colors or counting, which was a plus. Then we talked about the buses (or cars makeshift buses!) that each kiddo had and their color, their different parts, what they do and so on.

Afterward, I read the book then handed out craft supply pieces. I pre-printed four cardstock papers with a road, tree and cloud clipart I found free online, which seemed to help greatly since the quads acted like they knew just where to put the bus—on the road!

Some frantic glue stick-ing on my part and a little assistance in positing some of the pieces and we ended up with four fully-assembled yellow bus crafts! (I just freehanded the shapes I cut out from regular construction paper.)

Told ya it was easy! 

What book and craft combos do you love or plan to try?
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{Home Decor} Home Updates!

While I'm still recovering from a bilateral knee scope and spend one more night at my mom's house—which, by the way, the husband has been phenomenal taking care of the kids and I've left him with plenty of help!—I figured I'd share a few little updates we've made to the house over the past several weeks. You know, when I was still walking around like I didn't have two bum knees. Sigh.

It's not so much of an update as a "Hey, you can actually see the floor in there!" deal in our master bedroom. It's been covered with boxes, papers, clothes and baby socks for the longest time and I finally got around to cleaning most of it up. There's still plenty of decorative touches I need to add in there once I figure out what they are, and since I took this photo I've already moved the love seat into the play room downstairs and put our two recliners in its place instead. So...you know...progress. And yes those are extra carbon monoxide detectors sitting on my office desk.

The entryway had been similar covered in little people and big people shoes as well as grass, dirt, dog hair and so on. When I cleaned it up one afternoon I decided to add some fresh miniature white roses and some new frames and things for a slightly nautical feel for summer. But really it just looks like a couple frames and things, not so much a theme. And it's all still there because I haven't had time to move any of it, though I will in a couple weeks for fall. Either way, I'm just glad the table got dusted!

Our dining room had some nice, rather large details added. I scored the two mirrored wall hangings that you see on either side of the hutch for $20!!!! They are incredibly heavy and I hauled them home with a toddler I had that day at Hobby Lobby, too. Go me! The husband anchored them to the wall nice and sturdy-like and I love the way the look in there.

I could pretend my dining room looks this clean and nice all the time, but then I'd be lying. Because it's also where we keep the dog kennel for our two dinosaurs labs, and the table is usually covered in the husband's papers for work, a craft I'm working on or leftover junk no one knows where it belongs. So let me just have this moment where it's only inhabited by dogs, okay!?

I do love the patio door in the dining room that brings light into both it and the adjoining living room—which we usually refer to as our "adult living room" since the kids aren't usually in there and it's not full of toys. (Though that's changed a little bit in the past few weeks.) Fortunately, our fully stocked bar space is right there so a drink isn't far from hand when needed! Recently, we hung the little decorative iron piece above the bar, which was also a Hobby Lobby find for $10.

If you spotted those little kiddie chairs in the corner, then you've discovered the quad-friendly space I added to our living room. It's the perfect spot for them to stop and grab a book or puzzle when they're out of the play room and roaming the house, and it tends to keep things a little more contained.

That turquoise book case was a cool piece I purchased in South Texas during my first annual quad momma trip with some of my closest mommas of four and more, and I love it! Turquoise is my favorite color and I wanted to pull a little bit of it into the side of the room, so when my mother-in-law gave me a table runner in the same hue, I immediately found a home for it on the entertainment center.

Those wine candles are ones I made back at Christmas as gifts and I love the Champagne pear scent. I saved larger wine bottles for decorative purposes and stuck faux greenery in them to add a little plant life appeal behind the TV screen.

So that's what new in our neck of the woods, and I'll be sharing more photos taken during my knee surgery recovery and as I get back in the swing of things at home. Plus I've got some more Littles Learning posts in the works, which I know you're excited about. Stay tuned...

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Another Surgery...

I'm about to start my third movie of the day, my feet are propped up on a foot rest, my mom just made a fresh pitcher of herbal tea and I'm loving getting to spend some quality time together. Even if it means I have stitches in both my knees...

The last time I had surgery—which was a pretty major one in January 2013—I thought, "Well, at least that's it! I'm done!"


Turns out, I'm not done with hospitals. After more than two years of knee and foot pain, I was diagnosed with severe plantar fasciitis and chronic knee pain with advanced arthritis in both knees. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation and structural breakdown of a ligament that runs the length of the bottom of the foot, best I understand it. I've been seeing an orthopedist for the past several months and he says that hormones from pregnancy, stress-related events and traumatic physical experiences can cause it, among other things. And my quad pregnancy seems to check all those boxes. I've now had two rounds of cortisone injections in the bottoms of my feet, a most painful experience, let me assure you. The shots have helped greatly and I've also begun doing foot stretches and wearing more supportive shoes throughout the day.

But my knees have been a more troublesome story. I've had X-rays, an MRI and various exams and have tried cortisone injections, anti-inflammatory treatments and physical therapy. The latter has certainly helped strengthen my knees and legs as I had severe muscle atrophy from eight weeks of bed rest that was accompanied by a magnesium sulfate IV the entire time, all before delivering the quads. I came home from the hospital when the babies were five days old and I squatted down to pick something up off the floor and literally could not get back up. The husband had to come pick me up and I experienced difficulty getting around for quite some time. Ever since, my muscle strength just hasn't been near what it used to be and the magnesium seems to have created incredibly lax ligaments and muscle groups that have taken longer than normal to recover and build back up.

The MRI of my knees showed a cyst in the left knee, which my doctor said is usually indicative of a meniscus tear, but the only other thing present for sure was arthritis in both knees. I have experienced near equal pain in both knees as well—it usually starts within five minutes of getting out of bed in the morning and continually worsens throughout the day. The severity depends on my activity level during the day, how many times I go up and down the stairs or lift and hold babies, how much I am squatting or kneeling down and so forth. Some days it's difficult for me to stand for long periods of time while others I'm left hobbling around in discomfort. It's certainly not a fun way to live, especially now that I'm busily keeping up with four crazy toddlers!

When my orthopedist first mentioned doing a knee scope, he really wasn't encouraging it since I'm at a pretty young age for knee troubles and he wanted to be sure we'd exhausted all other options first. Now that we had, it was time to schedule surgery and have a bilateral knee scope performed, which is what I had done yesterday morning. I'll spare you the long story and keep it short, basically to say that hospitals give me major anxiety since having pretty much lived in one for four months between my stay and the babies' NICU stay. I was getting so anxious about the thought of having yet another surgery and just spending time in a hospital that I literally made myself sick with nausea and a headache the day before.

Thankfully I survived and surgery is done! My doctor found a meniscus tear in both knees and was able to clean out the arthritis in both as well. The nurses in recovery were great at working me through the residual nausea that always plagues me in any post-surgery event and quickly got the pain under control. I also had my Cheap Ass Easter Bunny with me. Some of you might remember that the husband got him for me while I was in the hospital pregnant with the quads, with many more long, hard weeks ahead of me. The bunny was on a very discounted after-Easter sale and the husband thought I needed him. At first, I admit to not being a huge fan but now that dang bunny has come to every surgery and procedure since! Apparently right before I went under for my knee scope yesterday, I instructed the nurse who was wheeling my bed out with the bunny in it to take care of him and have him waiting for me when I was conscious again, ha.

The husband was amazing—as he always is!—at taking care of me and supporting me in my continuing journey back to health. I could not do all this without him, he's such a wonderful husband and father and is so patient, thoughtful and kind. He's been my rock long before we began our adventure with quads and continues to be now, more than ever!

Needless to say, I was happy to see my babies when I got home from the hospital and soaked up all the careful, gentle hugs and cuddles I could get. They knew momma's legs hurt and I just told them the bandage wraps around my knees were giant bandaids, which immediately elicited wide-eyed curious concern. My favorite moment was with Harrison when he gingerly climbed into my lap while I was laying on the couch and we just sat there together watching some TV. That handsome boy is my favorite of the four when it comes to kissing all over such an innocent little face. We have a special thing we do where one of us says "ugga mugga," then we rub our noses together.  He'll just come up to me at random, stick his face in mine and say "Ugga mugga, momma, ugga mugga!" And my heart promptly melts into a million pieces.

So I'm on crutches for a couple days and should get my stitches out in a week or so. The knee scope left three small incisions encircling my knee with a few stitches in each, which I haven't seen yet since it's all still bandaged. The scope is a robotic surgery and I was told will leave minimal scarring. Then I'll start back at physical therapy and hopefully begin gaining more ground with my newly improved knees!

In the week leading up to surgery, naturally I had to prep things for the kids and caregivers and make sure the house was in respectable shape since I'd be focusing on recovery afterward. I had all the grocery shopping and menu planning done at the beginning of the week and planned out the learning crafts and activities I've been incorporating for the quads (I am featuring those in my new Littles Learning blog category). We've been working through colors and this week is Yellow Week, so I pre-assembled some discovery boxes and a few other very simple items and things for the kids to review over the weekend. My parents, the husband's parents, our family friend Jo Ann and my nanny are all pulling "shifts" to cover things while I spend the weekend at my mom's house and also to help me throughout next week as I won't quite be back at 100 percent. Plus the local church we plan to join graciously offered to provide dinners throughout the weekend, which helps tremendously.

Even a simple day surgery requires much planning, but not so much for the actual procedure as for replacing momma afterward! My mom, mother-in-law and the husband have all become acutely aware in just the past few days of how, um, challenging the quads have become lately. And how much I've been handling on my own with them. Terrible Two's, perhaps? I've talked about my newfangled little troop of defiant mini-me's here, here and here; and my mom shares some of her take here. It's nice to know I'm not so easily replaced, but this is one of those times when the saying "it takes a village" isn't a joke, it's a cold hard fact!

Terrible Two's or not, I always feel so much better going into something like this being as prepared as possible. It's probably a bit of a coping mechanism for the anxiety a hospital visit gives me, but it also makes recovery a little less stressful when everyone knows exactly what they need to do and has the tools and organization to do it. What's even better is recovering at my mom's house for a few days at the husband's insistence, and I'm so grateful that he did! It's so peaceful and quiet over here, something I haven't experienced in quite awhile. My mom was thrilled to have me come stay a couple days and will take me by a friend's baby shower on Sunday before we head back to Quadville. She's a wonderful nurse; there's something about momma's that always has us feeling better immediately, ya know? She got me all situated on the couch as soon as we arrived. I'm having to keep my legs elevated, knees iced and have some lovely pain meds going as well as some exercises to run through each day so I can start strong when I go back to therapy. And let me just tell you what a graceful vision I am on crutches....not!

One bowl of popcorn and some herbal iced tea later, we'd watched Jaws 4 and decided to hit play on another movie in the DVR queue since I wasn't exactly going anywhere. Neither of us had seen Pitch Perfect and it was actually pretty cute. My mom loves watching movies as much as I do and we're also enjoying our time together, since most often it's spent around four demanding (but cute!) little tots.

I've long promised a more detailed update on my health since having the quad squad and still plan to put together a post on that before long. I also very much appreciate all the kind messages, comments, emails and prayers from everyone this week, Lord knows I need 'em all! For now, some fresh ice packs and dinner with a side of ibuprofen are on the agenda, as well as another movie—Transcendence this time, I think. My mom's a big fan of Johnny Depp and who am I to protest any sort of flick kick....
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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 sleep...at 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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