From Beaches to Backcountry

In a whirlwind of quick preparation, we decided to grab life by the horns and take the kids on a back-country Alaska excursion over the past weekend. With our fishing trip to Kasilof such a success, we optimistically decided the girls could handle a little more of an Alaskan edge to traveling. What do I mean by that? Well, why not try going somewhere with no power or water, somewhere tucked back in the remote wilderness and only accessible by four wheelers…THAT kind of adventure! Quite a bit different than our cozy, two bed, two bath with laundry and kitchenette stay last month, but regardless, it went pretty well overall! We are very thankful for friends who share their fun places to stay with our family, even when it’s definitely not easy to spend the weekend with three, three-year-olds!

One has to pack far lighter when all the gear must be hauled in, not one of my best traits since I like to over prepare. With one bag filled to the brim with my clothes and the girls, we managed to get the gear, food, extra coats and boots and such, and other toddler necessities like stuffed animals and car seats, down to two trips back!

Adventuring with Grandma Sue is far easier, as she is the “in-flight entertainment” for the girls on the way and back. This trip we split everyone up in the car so one sat in back and the other two had no seat between them. We also hooked the iPad up to one of the front chairs so everyone could watch a movie as we drove out and back, about 3 hours each way. Movies and a million snacks worked out pretty well; amazingly on the drive home no one napped, but were rather quiet overall.

It was my first time driving and pulling a trailer and it went pretty well overall. Maybe that is good training for a future RV to pull…one can dream. Craig completed all the hard, manual labor of setting up the four wheeler on and off the trailer, strapping car seats and gear on it, and toting the kids in (most of the way with all three to their joy). I wrangled everyone as we geared up, everyone used the portable potty chair (that we bring everywhere) and became smothered in bug spray, and excitedly tried to “help” by climbing all over the four wheelers

The girls did wonderful on the trek back to the cabin; I was impressed at the great condition of the trail. We slowly moseyed our way back and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and scenery. Mount Denali came out both days and was absolutely gorgeous. While we probably should have packed a few more things to entertain, they did pretty good not completely destroying our host’s cabin. It was highly entertaining to explain that the TV in the corner didn’t work (we didn’t turn on the generator the whole trip) and what a VHS player was. At the end of the trip all three television remotes were missing and where did the girls shove them? Into the VHS player hole. Who knew one could fit THREE remotes in there? Well now we know.

The girls also did a full rearrange of the VHS/DVD shelf- they built towers with them on the tables and were entertained for a good thirty minutes before starting to fight. We four wheeled and occasionally walked down to the open water area that boasted all the views of Denali and the girls threw rocks in the water, muddied their boots and picked blueberries (which are super early to be out and very sour!).

In addition to the fun of the trip, I would be lying if I said there was constant toddler fighting, whining and arguing over entering and exiting the backdoor continuously!! Relaxation is not a word used to describe the weekend, something I look forward to achieving once the girls are older and more self-sufficient. We did manage to get everyone to sleep by about 9 PM that night, after a day with no nap and a lot of excitement, and everyone slept quite well with Craig in the bedroom’s king bed, waking up about 7:30 the next morning. We enjoyed sleeping out in the main living area and I extremely enjoyed the sporadic rainfall hitting the metal roof above us. How I’ve missed that!

I’m glad we spontaneously decided to go, something we haven’t done since the girls joined our family. We left the cabin and trekked back to the car the next day with minimal bug bites, lots of dirt, a lot fewer snacks to pack and another beautiful sunny morning. We made a brief stop in Talkeenta on the return trip for lunch, which the girls didn’t really eat, and once the grumpiness was too much to handle, we drove home. All in all, so glad we went. Getting out into nature is essential to being an Alaskan and we hope to instill that mentality in our kids as they grow up.

Ice Ice Baby

The entrance of spring means we can finally practice more front yard and driveway playing without running into the street. The girls greatly enjoy chopping ice and helping mommy and daddy prep the front yard for summer. Beach buckets and a shovel equals hours of entertainment with the melting snow. Considering it took us so long to improve parking lot etiquette and we aren’t completely there yet with all three, I am pleasantly surprised how well they maintain the yard bubble without running out into the street. Not to say they are perfect this past week, but I am certain by mid summer they will be pros and I’ll be slightly less stressed ensuring to watch them.

Other impending spring activities include cleaning out all the unused toys that helped us survive winter indoors, clearing the back deck of snow to play, and breaking out the rain boots and warmer coats. It means keeping an eye out on good spring cleaning finds for sale, which led us to a super cute, new playhouse project that could use a little TLC and paint and last a few summers and a number of new toddler-sized household tools, including mini rakes, shovels and gardening tools.

Actual gardening has not yet occurred but we are interested to see what the girls think of the activity this summer. Once the ground thaws and we can start planting, it will be fun to see which one loves to help grandma out in the garden. All will be happy to eat any new discoveries once they are ripe and thriving.

The drive-able kid cars are already out and used for jots down the street and back. So far we haven’t had to carry them back like last year, which is a great improvement, and steering is much better too. Four wheeler rides are still requested upon occasion and Craig can load up to five kids on it at once. Reagan really enjoys just sitting on it and pretending to drive.

Bowling babes!

Several firsts also occurred this month. After my eye procedure Craig and Grandma Sue took the girls for their first bowling experience and it was quite the hit. The girls talked about it for a couple of days and we ended up going again later that week. They enjoyed pushing the ball down the metal helper until they realize they could throw it with the help of daddy and that new method quickly took over. It feels really nice to get out of the house and survive a few new activities, since the past three years we have been home so much. The girls maturing a bit allows us to try small activities and see how they do, without a ton of stress or constant toddler chasing.

Over the past three years we have excitedly dreamed and talked about putting the girls in different activity classes such as dance, ice-skating, gymnastics, and of course other sports we played as kids like soccer and basketball. The girls will all be tall so I fully believe everyone will end up playing volleyball or basketball to use their height advantage, not to mention the whole triplet matching faces can toy with your opponents in amazing ways concept. I hope at least one, if not all, enjoy playing soccer as they grow up; it was definitely my sport of choice and I enjoyed many Alaska summers under the bright sun for tournaments, practices and games.

So no, we didn’t start soccer yet but that will hopefully happen this summer. We had our first two ice-skating lessons at the Dimond Mall and they went pretty decently. The first session occurred with two out of three cooperating for almost the whole 30 minutes. Harper, our speed demon, really took to it with the help of her teacher; she managed a few solo moments balancing and still maintaining composure. You can tell while watching that she wants to go faster and her legs and balance aren’t quite ready to comply yet. Reagan also did really well going back-and-forth and following the stuffed beanie that the teachers used to encourage the kids to go forward. Many of the activities are similar to “drills” we ran when we coached soccer and it’s a fun comparison. The whole goal of kid activities is to teach balance, understanding, patience and coordination; not so much the actual sport, at least not at first. And it has to be fun…or else why would they want to continue doing it?! That brings me to the one who did not consider ice skating fun., Emerie. She made it a whole two minutes out on the ice before she was laying down crying and screaming I don’t want to do this! The poor teacher brought her back over to us and she watched her sisters for a little while, went back out on the ice one more time and didn’t want to be there, and ended the first class with Craig skating over to the teacher to get her sticker.

I personally thought it was fun to watch from the sidelines (albeit a screaming Emerie for part of it) and not be a part of the actual session. The whole operation went very smoothly for the seven, three-year-olds and a handful of teachers guiding the kiddos as they shuffled across the ice, teaching them to stand back up the correct way on a slippery surface, and making sure that they were safe while having fun.

We’ve asked them several times that day if they liked their first ice-skating lesson, especially because they were so excited that morning before we left. Emerie is consistently giving the answer no I don’t like it while Harper claims the same but we know enjoyed it, and Reagan smiles and asks to go again. The second lesson went even better, with Emerie lasting a lot longer. This was likely because Craig donned his skates and intervened when needed, which they all seemed to enjoy, and everyone was extremely excited for their panda sticker at the end.

Overall, I am excited for the rest of the sessions in the weeks to come and hopeful that Emerie will get a little more excited about it. Maybe this isn’t her sport, or maybe she just doesn’t like wearing a mask, glasses and a helmet, which we can’t really blame her for. Either way will be trying out other activities after this wanted to see which one everyone enjoys.

I should also mention a couple cute arguments between sisters. Vocabularies and sentence structure continue to grow and improve, but it’s not only that; their thought process and comprehension seems to expand by the day! We will randomly here someone call to someone else to show something super cool look at this! Even though they fight tooth and nail about everythingggggg, they also seem to want to be all together and will ask you a million times if one is out of sight. I assume they also want to ensure they aren’t missing out on anything exciting that #3 might be sneakily doing.

A discussion I heard the other day at bedtime, which was similar to a car conversation a few days prior, went something like this:

Reagan: I’m Harper Anne right now.

Harper: Mom! Reagan not Harper Anne! She Reagan!

Reagan: No! I Harper Anne!!

Emerie: No, you Reagan Jean and I’m Emerie Faye.

Harper: You’re name is poop.

I mean really, the arguments over here are outstanding to hear. As soon as that wrapped, they moved onto who they like the best and are arguing over who is right and can get the last word in. One says Tyler, another says Chatum, then everyone argues over Papa Lon and Papa Cliff and it goes from there. Apparently it’s all about the boys in this family. It’s also interesting to see when someone is randomly thinking about someone else.

Another interesting turn of conversation involves the girls calling me by my actual name if I don’t immediately answer the “mom call.” I have no idea where this originated, and while it is funny, I am not about to have three tiny tots calling Becca! when they immediately want something. Hopefully I’ve succeeded at breaking this one easily, as I explained I will not answer to that because I am Mommy to them. That argument seemed to work for the time being.

All in all, we are excited for spring! We are excited to rediscover toys hidden in the shed all winter, to scream there’s a spider in here Mom! all over the place, and to spend the summer outside on some new adventures.

Seward (Day) Adventures

I’ve learned to pack some extras before going on a drive anywhere out of our city and this week I am very thankful for that predisposition. We loaded up yesterday morning to adventure down to Seward and the SeaLife Center for the day…and then come back home…right?!

Wrong! Can you hear Mother Nature laughing?! She likes to do that type of thing to us (aka triplets!…).

We started the day with quite a snowy and windy drive out of town. It was close to questionable if we should call it and head home, but our group is tough and headed along with eleven kids and five adults spanning three cars. We eventually made it to a wet and more breakup looking Seward- a TON of snacks were eaten and movie clips and songs played; we managed to get there without too much grumpiness. Having Grandma and/or Daddy in the very backseat, feeding the food into the tiny minions hands definitely helped.

We unloaded and hustled the kiddos through the wind and inside to see the sea lions! as the girls quoted the whole drive down. All the kids did great checking out the exhibits and actually returning when called. As you might imagine, it is not easy to smoothly move through anywhere with a headcount of ELEVEN kids under age eight…but hey, we like a challenge and it went really well! They really enjoyed the large sea lion exhibit, looking at the different types of fish and the temporary touch tank (since the normal one is under renovation). There were a lot of little hands touching the sea urchins and star fish with great enthusiasm as well as the comments about the cold water. The kids lasted a little longer than our visit last summer but we still went through the whole thing faster than preferable. Everyone picked out a stuffed animal at the gift shop (three black bear requestes were vetoed since we already have them!) and Emerie ended up leaving with a cute, green turtle, Harper grabbed a red octopus, and Reagan a spotted grey seal. Reagan keeps asking me to hold her seal so her sisters can’t take it. Silly kids.

Instead of sitting down at a restaurant and eating lunch, we dressed everyone in full snow gear and pushed them out of the vehicle to play at Seward’s awesome toddler park. It was windy and very icy and met with great enthusiasm from the whole bunch. I cannot wait for summer when we can visit again under more pleasant conditions. This outdoor activity inspired half the kids to demand use of the portable potty chair we brought and several clothing changes. By the third kid we were ready to load up and head back home.

I do have to mention one of my favorite moments from this adventure. Two of the kiddos in our group were chatting and one noted to the other that she was related to the triplets. She proceeded to say that she can’t tell them apart so she calls them Strawberry (Harper), Grape (Emerie) and Blueberry (Reagan). I love seeing how other kids view the girls when they indeed look identical unless you are constantly around them and can distinguish by personalities or small differential traits like chipped teeth. This makes me want to design them cute fruit shirts!!

The touch pool!

Cue a change in background music…because little did we know the real adventure for the day was just beginning. The roads appeared clearer than the way in, with the temperature finally above freezing and the roads more wet than icy, making us feel confident and optimistic on a faster drive home than that morning. This thought was shattered when our speed demon driver of the group, Heather, called about the time we arrived in Moose Pass with a warning the highway was closed from an avalanche, making the road impassable.

We managed to meet up at the pull off ahead of it with our whole kid entourage. More snacks were consumed and we made the executive decision to head to Kenai and see if the road would clear in a few hours. At this point I wasn’t sure how well the girls would do with more time in the car, especially after a busy morning and no one napping yet; overall they handled it really well. I should also mention avalanche news inspired us to open the wrapped presents from Cousin Jamie and crew, because why not? The singing baby sharks greatly assisted in keeping toddler moods pleasant as we detoured an unplanned direction.

Before everyone started running around.

After hitting up the Soldotna Fred Meyer for more snacks (of course), melatonin and changes of clothes for the rest of the group (we had enough for us due to our forethought!), we sat down for a nice dinner in the backroom of a restaurant in Kenai (the name is already escaping me). The whole evening adventure worked out well for two reasons, 1) we have a great group of kiddos and parents that help each other, and 2) the backroom allowed for said hyper children to run circles, snack on some dinner, run more circles, and repeat. By the time we finished dinner, it was already past the girls’ normal bedtime and yet we weren’t completely immersed in meltdowns. This was both surprising and glorious, and shows that when given the chance, kids can adapt to things. We haven’t tested this theory very much in the past three years, since the triplet bubble remains tight and regimented, so it is really great to know when a wrench gets thrown in your plans, it is survivable!

By the time dinner was over the highway was not yet clear and open. Instead of chancing driving that distance again and not getting through with very tired toddlers in the car, in the dark on icy road conditions, we opted to hit up a hotel for the night and take our chances with convincing the girls to sleep somewhere new.

Checking out the hotel potty

As we drove to the hotel, the toddler questions in the backseat eventually ended with a we are going on an “venture” and met with acceptance, even though they had no idea what that meant.

It was close to dark and way past standard bedtime by the time we made it back to Soldotna’s hotel and the girls (and adults) were definitely losing steam. First things first, everyone HAD to check out the bathroom, test to see if the potty is loud (which it wasn’t), open the mini fridge, push microwave buttons until it turned on, and jump on the beds. No pajamas meant the girls slept in their dresses from the day, but luckily had their normal bedtime stuffies and a single binkie we packed for each. Within an hour or so everyone was snuggled in a bed and asleep; Emerie snoring quietly next to me while holding her monkey, Harper cuddled with Craig on the second bed, and Reagan sound asleep next to Grandma Sue on the pull out sofa bed. And everyone slept WELL and extra pillows meant no one fell off the sides!

We made it!

There isn’t much to tell about the ride home, with the avalanche cleared and no snow falling or potty stops needed, but I will readily admit I am really excited for summer conditions to get here already so we can try out more planned out-of-town adventures. Three years mostly confined to this city is a long time and we are lucky to live in a central location with many fun places within a few, short hours. It is nice to know it might be doable to try new places out and let the girls see other parts of Alaska that we grew up enjoying. Things should go fine as long as there are enough snacks, an overnight bag in the car just in case, extra hands and lots of car ride activities!