{Quad Squad} Summer Play Dates!

Summer used to be such a highly anticipated season for me. I loved the hot weather, the sounds of water lapping at the edges of a pool, the smell of coconut tanning oil on my skin and the blonde streaks the sun would leave in my hair after an entire day spent outside. Granted, I was either at synchronized swim practice or working a shift as a lifeguard as a teenager. Then in college, summers were spent traveling around Texas, lounging pool side as often as possible and floating the Guadalupe river in South Texas every year with a load of friends. Then the husband and I had quadruplets. And all the aforementioned activities came to a screeching halt!

Not to say it was a shocking revelation or anything. It was everything I could do to hang onto that pregnancy during the spring of 2012 and after the babies were born on May 31, 2012, our days morphed into one long stretch spent at the NICU as we willed them to grow and become strong and healthy. We rarely even knew what day of the week we were earn and July 4th came and went without hardly a notice. The following summer was still heavily dictated by bottles and a busy schedule caring for the quads and we spent the spring preparing to move from Houston to Dallas, which meant summer was spent crammed into our two-bedroom apartment while desperately house hunting for a place we loved.

Many of you recall our big move into our current home on July 4th, 2013—so we didn't really celebrate again, but we were certainly busy that holiday! Summer ended before we could blink again and the weather transitioned to cold late in the fall and we celebrated a mishmash of holidays with family in our hometown.

Enter this summer. My, what a difference! We are slowly feeling as though we're gaining back portions of "normal life," as we often find ourselves referring to things like swimming, going out with friends in the evening, taking trips somewhere or participating in parties and family gatherings. So many things are becoming options that previously were completely unattainable with four infants! The quads are mobile and increasingly independent on an impressive level, not to mention we've settled into a wonderful home that so perfectly accommodates our family of six and all the things we enjoy doing. The kiddos have spent a great deal of time outside on their backyard play ground that the husband created as a safe, enclosed space for them to run free, we've enjoyed mornings and afternoons on the front lawn playing with bubbles and chalk, we've attended birthday parties and visited grandparents and we've hosted numerous play dates as well!

For a couple weeks and weekends, things stayed busy enough that it was difficult for me to regularly update the blog—which I know you're all just heartbroken about!—so I figured I'd conduct a proper photo dump and title it "Summer Play Dates" to both sum up what we've done thus far this season and also remind myself or all the "normal" we're getting to experience at last. ;)

For starters, this July 4th we suited everyone up and headed to our nanny's apartment where there's a cute little splash pad that was perfect for the kids. I brought lunch and our nanny's boyfriend even came to join the party, meaning we had four adults for four quadlings!

We love the opportunity to catch up with friends who are in town but aren't always able to get a sitter, so it means a lot to us when friends come our way. Which is just what my girlfriend, Alison, did while visiting Texas! She was a bridesmaid in our wedding and I've known her since we were young, dumb teenagers. :) She was amazed at how big the quads have gotten and enjoyed participating in our dinner and nighttime routine before we adults sat down to dinner and wine of our own. And yeah, I'm totally jealous of her awesome tan!

Another dear, lifelong friend also came to visit us while she was in town and I finally got to meet her first kiddo, who was an adorable four months old. My friend, who studied bilingual special education, is a talented teacher and has been sharing many tips and ideas as I begin working with the quads more and more each week on learning and education. I love getting input from my friends who work with kids or are in education as it helps me get a leg up on things with my quickly advancing crew!

Another afternoon was spent with my sweet cousin, Andie, who the quads adore. My beloved Aunt Deanie also came over and brought my Grandma, who loves getting to see the quads and spend time with them at this age. My mom was there as well and brought my older brother's three kids, my two nephews and niece, who enjoy playing with my crew and keep them very occupied! The quads are always fascinated with older kids and Harrison usually follows them around and copies what they're doing or saying. Influence is at its fullest right now!

We got a tray full of chicken nuggets and bags of fries from Chick-Fil-A for lunch, courtesy of my Aunt, and while the babies took their naps, I set up the older kids with the Lego Movie in the living room. Later, we all spent as much time as we could bear in the heat in the front yard and chowed down on fruity popsicles (coconut ones for the adults!).

My quad mama BFF, Amber, and I coordinated a play date at my place one Thursday afternoon and spent nearly the entire time in the backyard play ground with plenty of water to keep the eight two-year-olds entertained! She and I sipped on summer beers loaded with fruit that I'd mixed up while laughing and enjoying watched the kids played. We even witnessed Kailey's first kiss when she puckered up with sweet little Mason! 

One Saturday evening, we had friends over—who are also godparents to the quads—along with their two kids and grilled steaks and watched the little ones play. They were all so funny together! It was nice to just relax, open a bottle of wine and hang out with family. Some days, I look around and just can't believe how many kids we "suddenly" have. Just a few years ago, my life was so different! Not only did we not have any kids, but we rarely had kids at our home or entertained little ones. Now it's no big thing to have six, eight or even more kiddos at our place! 

We met up with our quad buddies again when they turned two just a few weeks ago and celebrated with a Pirates & Princess party. Parties are a much easier feat now that the kids can walk into places on their own and we don't even have to use strollers for that or infant carriers like once upon a time! I certainly treasure these family outings and am happy to report they are consistently becoming less work and more successful every time.

One lazy Sunday, the husband got motivated and washed all the laundry that was stacking up in the hamper and set out on a folding and organizing mission. I opted for a glass of wine and cuddled with the kiddos on the couch while we watched Cars, which Harrison loved for all the racing action and sound effects.

A more recent Sunday found us hauling four little cuties to our friend's nearby backyard pool for a swim lesson with one of my best friends. She's now the head coach for the synchronized swim team I used to be on and also teaches private lessons—she was great with the quads! They did even better than I expected and we hope to fit in a few more lessons before the weather changes. Next year, I am planning to have more consistency with their lessons so they can really get the hang of swimming and water safety, a very important skill to the husband and I.

Lots of fun things have taken place over the past couple weeks, and we're not done yet! This coming Sunday is set to be an awesome play date of epic proportions....we're going to have three sets of quads! That's 12 two year olds at my house, y'all!! A quad momma and her family have traveled into town visiting her sister and Amber and I decided we must all get together, and I figured our play room would be the perfect spot.

Stay tuned for photos and more blog posts over the weekend!
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{Weekend Recap} Grill Out & Surf's Up!

Since it's a new weekend, I figured it's as good a time as any to update about last weekend. That seems to be about the pace I'm moving at these days. Onward and upward, shall we?

The husband and I laid around with the babies on Saturday and took naps of our own while they slept after lunch, then set out some steaks and cracked open a bottle of wine when some friends came over with their two kiddos to join us for dinner at the house. The quads loved watching the older kids and Harrison immediately took a liking to their adorable three-year-old little boy, following him around everywhere. And during dinner, Harrison mimicked him when he started saying "Stinkerbell!" which irritated his big sister immensely! But she was an excellent sport when the quads started launching select pieces of food from their seats at the table—not necessarily a normal event, but she took it all in stride. :)

I adore that last photo of Trystan standing by our friend's five-year-old, almost like a glimpse of things to come!

Sunday morning the husband and I fiiiinally attended a church service for the first time in quite awhile, thanks to my parents who stayed at the house with the babies. We found a Methodist church nearby—the husband was raised Catholic, I was raised Baptist and we met in the middle before we tied the knot—that we loved within the first five minutes of being there. I felt so spiritually energized and rejuvenated and look forward to the quads attending Children's Church there in the near future. We toured the nursery after the service and met with the caretakers who were working that morning. I was pleased to hear all the nursery and children's service workers are background checked and given nursery-specific training! The church is a really nice size and has plenty of activities for adults, kids and families alike going on throughout the year. Including a Mother's Day Out program. More shades of things to come!?

Later in the afternoon, the husband and I loaded up the fab four and headed to our quad friend's second birthday party, adorably themed Pirates and Princesses! There were so many moments where we happily observed how much more independent the kids are becoming as well as how outings are slowly becoming easier. (Don't get me wrong, it's still a lot of work and I end up drenched in sweat every time! But certain things give me much less anxiety when it comes to hauling four little kiddos out of the car and turning 'em loose!)

Above are the two quadfather's conversing over my crew, who were happily snacking and the girls are wearing their cute tiaras and princess dresses. Below is myself and my quad momma BFF, Amber, with our boys in matching attire! I also love that Amber dressed to theme in a Princess-worthy frock and pearls. :)

Everything was so thoughtfully prepared and the party was a huge success. We stayed until the end! The kids had gone the whole day without much of a nap, but had handled it all very well and stayed pretty occupied with the new surroundings and all the people and kid watching. I love the family photo we captured on our front porch before we left!

I know Mondays are clearly no longer the weekend, but I have to include this little snippet because I truly thought I was in for it!! Monday morning rolled around and I reluctantly forced myself out of bed to get the week started. My nanny arrived (she's with me on Monday, Tuesday and Friday mornings for the summer) and helped me prep breakfast and get the quads up, change diapers and dressed. By 9:15am, we had all the babies in the car and were en route to a nearby mall for some air conditioned play time in the kid's area. I even managed to squeeze in a very brief trip to Victoria's Secret—have you tried their Incredible sports bra?!—before we moseyed over to the food court for lunch at Chick-Fil-A. Afterward, there was a surf shop that caught my eye so we scooted the babies inside in their strollers and they were able to watch a group of kids practicing their surf skills on an indoor wave. The store employee kindly gave us permission to test out the wave-shaped jumpy, and the kids loved that! 

After such an active morning, I was soooo looking forward to the kid's napping well and myself enjoying a well-earned break. But, alas, Kailey refused to nap at ALL and Logan woke up early screaming and crying. At one point, I was near tears myself. I reluctantly ended naps/quiet play time early and got the bath tub ready. The next hour resulted in a broken glass jar in the bathroom, two out of four tossing water out of the bath tub every chance they got, group screams and cries while they all waited their turn to be dressed after baths, Harrison peeing on the carpet, Kailey finding the can of Baby Lysol and proceeding to spray half of it while my back was momentarily turned, no one thinking that time in the play room was a good idea despite being gone all morning and so the story goes....

I was ready to quit! But I had a somewhat oddly calming thought during the chaos when I realized that the formula for a perfect day simply does not exist. One kid, four kids or eight kids, there's no magical schedule or system or strategy one can follow that results in pleasant children all day, seven days a week! And with four two-year-olds, sucky days can be expected and that afternoon happened to be one of them. So I mustered as best I could and finished out the day, hoping to start again with renewed strength in the morning.

The next day did get better and everyone actually napped! Harrison and Kailey may have fallen asleep on the floor in front of the door to their room, after pulling all the toys out of the two small bins I have left in there while they continue to adjust to the freedom of toddler beds! But I counted it a win and caught up on a little shuteye myself.

The rest of this week has been pretty decent and I'm looking forward to sharing some new posts and enjoying a low-key weekend with the fam. And a little peace and quiet, one can hope! Sometimes the hard days are the ones that lend you the most perspective when you least expect it...
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{Tyke Bites} Banana Bread, Go Bars & Italian Chicken!

Hello my foodie friends! I'm back with another installment of Tyke Bites, which features a random day of meals for my quad squad....

Breakfast was a yummy serving of homemade banana bread (I've been using this recipe lately and the whole fam loves it!) with full-fat Greek vanilla honey yogurt and fresh strawberries. The kiddos enjoy eating their yogurt with spoons and are definitely becoming more adept with cutlery. But not at making less mess. That's what momma is for right? Clean up, aisle 4.

Lunch was a hodge podge mix of leftovers, since that's how we roll some days! We had leftover chicken nuggets, veggie chips, a couple whole grain goldfish, cheese, blueberries and cantaloupe. They ate every bite! I have to remember sometimes that kids don't find random food pairings odd at all, unlike we adults. ;)

I always struggle a little with snack time. Some days we do applesauce out of a community bowl, some days grandma is over and does a tea party with tea biscuits and other days I resort to my trusty goldfish. The quads love them, I just wish I could cut down on the carb-based foods I give them! But I've tried various things to no avail, so I have to feed them something they'll actually eat. I was very happy to find Plum Organic Go Bar's that have oats, chocolate chips and veggies at Target. The kids gobbled them up and they're easy to eat with minimal mess. 
Dinner, however, was a freshly baked home run that I'll certainly be repeating. I made this delicious Italian chicken bake, paired with mini penna pasta tossed with a little melted butter, garlic salt and fresh ground pepper, a couple of the baked tomatoes and sweet blueberries. Yum!

Got a recipe or snack idea you love? Leave me the dish in the comments section puh-lease!
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{Quad Squad} Simple Book & Craft Combos for Toddlers

Today we tackled our very first book and craft combo, and....it went well! I had a few somewhat cranky babies this morning and Harrison might have cried and yelled through half of our beautiful and peaceful learning experience. Kidding. But we did get the craft completed and no two-year-olds were harmed in the process. I call that success, people!

My good friend, Jo Ann, was on hand this morning to help, which was a benefit since I hadn't prepped anything yet for this craft. And there was impending mutiny on deck in the play room. So she hurriedly put them all in the quad table while I gathered up all the supplies as fast as I could. We're doing a craft, damn it!!

The inspiration came from Pinterest, naturally, which I now have saved to my new Quad Crafts & Learning board. But the original instructions called for black paint to paint the head and the ladybug's dots—and I had absolutely no black paint. Plus, I figured sticking to one paint color would keep things simpler for the eight busy little hands I needed to entertain. So I ad-libbed and cut out circles from black construction paper.

First, Jo Ann read our book, The Peek-A-Boo Ladybug and Harrison cried through every other word. Then we put art smocks from Ikea on everyone, partially covered the table in wax paper and gave them all a paper plate half, a brush (I love ours by Melissa & Doug) and some red washable paint. Then they went to work!

As soon as they had covered the plates with enough paint—all minimally assisted by the grown-ups—I gave them the dots for the ladybug to stick on while the paint was still wet, thus omitting the need for glue. Less material, better for everyone! Then they stuck on the larger black circles for the ladybug's head, to which I'd already glued a set of googly eyes. I also gave them two black strips of paper each for antenna, but I don't think those made it onto everyone's bug.

After that, everyone got four pieces of yarn, cut at random lengths, and we taped them to the backside of the plate for legs. Ta-dah! A ladybug, folks, in all it's charming toddler-esque glory.

I truly love this idea and am incorporating a literacy-based craft once a week into my new plan to create slightly more structured mornings for my crew. And my sweet quad momma friend—who also shares my same first name and is a wonderfully talented school psychologist—was the one to instigate the idea and encourage me to do literacy-based crafts as they help toddlers better learn and recall new concepts. We regularly display new artwork so we'll revisit the ladybugs and the book often. She does the same and explains details and shares other ideas in her literacy-based crafts blog post, as well.

Now to decide on next week's book and craft combo! (Look for future posts under my new category label, Toddler Crafts & Learning.) I'm thinking something like this caterpillar craft and a couple reads on caterpillars and butterflies...

Ah, the ever-thrilling life of a momma. ;)
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